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December 14, 2021 · OPINION

Youth mental health crisis advisory a wake-up call

Stock Illustration
By Joy Willey
President, Mental Health Association of Fauquier County

The recent U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory on the current crisis of youth mental health (The Washington Post, December 7) is wake-up call to our community.

For us at the Mental Health Association of Fauquier County, it underscores the decline in overall mental wellness we have been seeing in Fauquier and Rappahannock counties since before the pandemic began and is an urgent call to action to bolster programs and resources in our community, not only for youth but for all our residents.

> “Protecting Youth Mental Health” report below

It is important to be aware.

The shortage of mental health providers and services is no small obstacle. Our community has a severe shortage of mental health providers. Wait times to see a practitioner can be six weeks or more; crisis helplines are swamped, and we lack emergency psychiatric care services.

There is hope, but it will take time. There are scholarship assistance programs for individuals pursuing careers in mental health, but it can take years for them to complete their training. An expansion of mental health crisis services is being planned and implemented, including calling a 911-type number specifically for mental health concerns, increasing coverage by counselors embedded with the police, an adult mobile crisis team, a voluntary mental health database to inform first responders of conditions, and a satellite crisis evaluation unit at Fauquier Hospital.

There is still much more to do.

We can stand up for mental wellness together. As we provide leadership for mental health care improvements, we work alongside faith leaders, educators, community partners and concerned citizens to identify and address the needs in our community. Studies show that while therapy works, a key to establishing and maintaining mental wellness is strong community connections and we all play a role in that. You can help our community by:

• Connecting with those around you.

• Decreasing stigma by talking about mental health as we do physical health.

• Learning the warning signs, pay attention and, if you are concerned, seek help.

• Helping children and young adults understand that feelings of pain, fear, sadness, worry and anger are normal parts of life as are contentment, happiness, excitement and glee; encourage them to talk about their feelings and to express their emotions.

There are numerous resources and programs available and more planned for 2022.

Our community does have a free child and youth mobile crisis unit — telephone 800-970-5897 — and we encourage people to use it.

The Mental Health Association provides presentations on mental wellness topics including Mental Health First Aid training to teens and adults, and we will be expanding our offerings in 2022.

We have a searchable mental health provider database on our website to assist in finding help.

We look forward to continuing to collaborate with our partners in 2022 and invite individuals to work together to develop additional programs. The Mental Health Association is committed to addressing the mental health needs in our community.

Please, feel free to contact us at Fauquier-MHA.org or 540-341-8732.

The writer is a Delaplane resident.

Surgeon General Youth Menta... by Fauquier Now


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