Editorial: Mental health initiative takes first step

The first step in treating addiction, which often masks deeper mental health issues, is an individual admitting they have a problem and becoming open to seeking treatment.

In a broad sense, Bartholomew County has taken that first step and a few more when dealing with substance abuse disorder. The establishment of the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) in 2017 and other efforts marked a clear recognition of a deadly addiction problem in our county and the need for opening up new means for people to get into treatment programs.

The Republic has and will continue to advocate for greater access to substance abuse treatment for anyone who needs it and takes that first step. The continuing increase in drug overdose deaths, as well as the record numbers seeking treatment, speak to a segment of this community that literally needs a lifeline. The collective response to this crisis is a measure of the kind of community we are.

In that regard, we’re grateful for everyone in the community who recognizes the life-saving need for substance abuse treatment and are doing all they can to help. And that’s a long list of people that includes everyone from health care professionals to people who simply and compassionately encourage someone to get help for substance abuse disorder.

One of the things the editorial space in this newspaper can help do is destigmatize treatment for drug abuse disorder and mental health care. As human beings on this planet, we are sometimes subject to turns of events and twists of fate beyond our control that may lead to mental health problems or addiction. Yet what we can control is how we choose treat others as individuals and as a community. And this, too, is a measure of the kind of people and community we are and aspire to be.

So we applaud the news reported last weekend by The Republic’s Andy East that Community Regional Health’s Healthy Communities Initiative has been working toward a mental health initiative that also will involve city and county government, schools and the local behavioral health system and perhaps other stakeholders.

This initiative marks a first step of admitting we have a problem with mental health in this community. Data from the Healthy Communities Initiatives shows, among other things:

  • The suicide rate in CRH’s service area more than doubled, from 9.2 people per 100,000 in 2017 to 19 per 100,000 in 2019. The US rate during that same time rose from 11.3 to 14 per 100,000.
  • 31.8% of respondents in Bartholomew County have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, compared to 21% in Indiana and 20.6% nationwide.
  • 42.1% of respondents ages 18 to 39 reported experiencing symptoms of depression in the past year, including 36.3% of women and 46% of low-income residents.
  • 17.2% of county residents ages 18 to 39 reported they considered suicide in 2021 — more than three times as many in that age group (5.5%) who said they had considered suicide in the 2018 survey.

These trends demand action, empathy and most of all, a communitywide effort that aims to help people who need it. This effort will take time, compassion, commitment and resources.

We commend leaders for taking the first step.