According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in 2020, one in five U.S. adults dealt with a mental illness. And those numbers have only grown. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant contributor, during a time filled with loss, uncertainty and isolation. Last year, the organization reported more than 12 million U.S. adults experienced suicidal thoughts. And 4.9 million were unable to access needed care for various reasons. Even if you’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness, behavioral health experts say making time to care for and maintain your mental health is just as important as physical health. And staying mentally healthy can look different for everyone.
Vern Rennier is a Program Director of the Behavioral Health Unit at CHRISTUS St. Francis Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana. Rennier was once a hospital security guard and has a background in working with people facing a mental health crisis.
“When they come to our hospital, we realize that they’re at the lowest in their life because let’s face it, nobody comes to the hospital because they’re high on life. They come here because they’re at a low point and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” explained Rennier.
That’s why Rennier and the CHRISTUS team emphasize de-escalation and empathy with others while they might be in crisis.
“We realize that someone in a crisis usually has two things going on with them. Number one, they’re in fear, or number two, they’re confused. And during a de-escalation, we can clear up those two. They’re able to understand that we’re there for them. And that usually calms them down to a point where they’re not trying to hurt themselves, or anybody else,” he said.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but at CHRISTUS Health the belief is that it’s essential to have discussions about this topic more than just one month out of the year. Behavioral health experts say there has long been a stigma surrounding mental health…that someone seeking treatment for their mental health somehow makes them weak, or disadvantaged. CHRISTUS Health’s grant-making arm, called the CHRISTUS Community Impact Fund, identifies the top needs of some of CHRISTUS Health’s historically marginalized service areas. Each year, one of the expressed needs in several communities is access to mental health care.
Wanting to respond to the needs of our community, the CHRISTUS Community Impact Fund partners with organizations like Community Healthcore in Longview, Texas and Legacy Community Health in Beaumont, Texas
Jillian Fertig, CHRISTUS Calling podcast host, and Nadine Nadal, CHRISTUS Health’s Program Director for Community Health, recently had a chance to highlight CHRISTUS Health’s work to treat others grappling with mental health and speak to mental health experts doing exceptional work to bring awareness and care so that all may experience God’s healing presence and love.
Listen to the latest CHRISTUS Calling here: Addressing Mental Health Episode 5