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#TogetherForMentalHealth – May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While we strongly believe that the mental health of ourselves and others should be a priority year-round, this is a great opportunity to shine a light on the topic. 

This year’s theme is #TogetherForMentalHealth. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the theme focuses on joining together to improve our nation’s mental health care systems. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests some ways the mental health care system can be improved include: limiting the number of mental hospitals, building community mental health services, promoting self-care, developing mental health services in general hospitals, and integrating mental health services into primary health care. 

Center for Life Management (CLM) is a community mental health center located in Derry and Salem dedicated to treating children, adults, and families across southern New Hampshire. Director of Collaborative Care Julie Lago said the organization is willing to change the system and that in many cases, the status quo isn’t the way it always needs to be. “I have never worked anywhere that is so passionate about advocacy. If there is something that can be more effective, CLM will go to bat and encourage conversations about what works best,” Julie said. 

One example is the creation of the Continuum of Collaborative Care model. Together, Julie and Jennifer Chisholm, Director of Clinical Services at our area agency, created a model that focuses on those with a dual diagnosis of mental health and a developmental disability. Julie said Collaborative Care started by supporting 13 individuals with dual diagnosis – and now has served over 300 at CLM.

This July, Julie and Jen will speak virtually at the 20th Annual National Association for the Dually Diagnosed (NADD) where they will share their expertise with people who experience a dual diagnosis, parents, Direct Support Professionals, healthcare professionals, and others. 

An Emphasis on Team-Based Care

Team-based care is important to CLM as it allows them to give the best support possible, and Julie said the COVID-19 pandemic further shined a light on its importance. She said, “This was a good example of things changing. We need a common understanding of what people’s needs are, understanding mental health symptoms, and how we can best help someone achieve their goals. If we understand the role of everyone on the team – we are more likely to get there.” She added that getting to know someone and their needs – as well as understanding their strengths and what works for them are “driving forces to prevent a crisis.” 

According to MentalHealth.org, preventative mental health includes (but is not limited to): creating spaces where people feel comfortable talking about their feelings, promoting getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, staying active, practicing mindfulness, and the importance of staying in touch with family and friends. Educating and promoting the practice of positive mental health has proven to help avoid crises for people of all ages. 

Focusing on team-based care is not only important when it comes to the organization’s ability to give support, but it allows mental health care services all across the state to better support NH residents. Earlier this year, Acute Care Emergency Services were implemented in our state. Director of Emergency Services at CLM Kerry Ali said the access point is a statewide crisis line with access to all 10 of the mobile crisis lines in our state. If someone is in a crisis, they can call the number (833-710-6477) and they will be connected to someone who will help with the situation via phone call – and if de-escalation is not possible over the phone, they can go to the person’s location. It is important for people to understand that this isn’t a substitution for the walk-in services CLM provides, but it is another way to support people in our state. 

The Connection Between Mental and Physical Health

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health.  For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.”

At CLM, Healthy Together is a way to bring mental and physical health together. Coordinator of Integrated Care Amy Izzett said Healthy Together is a reverse integrated model. “We usually think about bringing mental health to a primary care facility, but here we are bringing a primary care component into our mental health agency,” she said. Twice a week, a primary care physician from Lamprey Health Care visits the CLM office to assist clients who are over 12 years old with their physical healthcare needs and concerns. 

Amy said that it is important to give clients the physical healthcare they deserve – especially because this population faces challenges such as lack of transportation and stigma related to mental health. 

Don’t Miss CLM’s Upcoming Events

CLM’s 14th Annual Benefit Concert & Auction will take place on Friday, July 15th at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry. Their website reads, “Our Benefit Concert and Auction has become a signature event that raises critical funding to support uninsured children, adolescents and adults with direct access to comprehensive emergency, clinical and medical services, case management, substance use treatment and community-based counseling support.”

The organization holds social activities, workshops, and other events throughout the year that you won’t want to miss. To be up-to-date about upcoming events and to stay connected with CLM, check out their website, ‘like’ their Facebook page and follow the organization on Instagram.

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