The council voted against forming a committee. Instead, time will be allotted at each of the monthly meetings to discuss the project.
DeeDee Finison suggested all members bring a couple solid ideas to October’s meeting.
A recent meeting established that members believe it is more important to promote current mental health options than offer a new program. Many addressed the issue of mental health’s stigma and the resulting hesitance for individuals to seek out treatment.
“People think just because you are seeking help for mental health something is seriously wrong, but that is not always true,” said Debbie Riggs, council member. “You might have small issues that you need to address, but they don’t make you a crazy lunatic.”
Tanya Southerland, GRAAB Coalition director and council member, agreed the issue of mental health must be addressed.
Members discussed how best to address the issue, including ideas for seminars, flyers, billboards and resource guides. Emily McComb of the United Way of Bradley County said a resource guide does not necessarily need to be in the hands of everyone. She said what matters is getting the information into the right hands, like school counselors, who could then give the information to those in need.
A large component of the awareness campaign would be making connections with organizations and individuals throughout the community.
Teresa Shull of Hiwassee Mental Health said the biggest issue to overcome will be the stigma of being seen as “mental.”
“We need to make it look like a more holistic approach to health, where mental health is included,” Shull said. “For so many people, it is not OK for the world ‘mental’ to be in there. I’ve had kids and adults come to me saying they don’t want to come [for help] because they are not mental.”
Health Council members agreed it is important for the public to understand taking care of one’s mental health is just as important as the physical and emotional aspects.
“If we can approach it as it being a component of who all of us are, and we need to take care of it just like every other component of who we are, then that would be a good message to get out there,” Shull said.
Finison encouraged the council to approach the issue from new avenues like social media.
The board unanimously agreed to first tackle the mental health awareness campaign before looking into the possibility of a life maze.
The mental health issue will be further addressed at the October Health Council meeting.