Mental Health Help
Carol chats with Ishanti Harris, NAMI Rock County, on best practices for mental health wellness
"Language is one of the most powerful things we as humans have. Language matters in mental health. The words we use to describe ourselves, others and the world around us have a profound effect on how we view mental health and our well-being." Ishanti Harris, NAMI Rock County
Q: What is the appropriate way to say someone has mental illness?
A: The appropriate way to say someone has a mental illness is by using Person First Language. Person First Language refers to the individual first and the disability second, looking at the whole person. Language is one of the most powerful things we as humans have. Language matters in mental health. The words we use to describe ourselves, others and the world around us have a profound effect on how we view mental health and our well-being.
Some examples of using Person First Language would be if a person has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, instead of saying “they are bipolar” we would say “this individual lives with bipolar disorder." Or saying “a child with autism” instead of “the autistic.”
Q: Do small children struggle with mental health issues?
A: Early Childhood Mental Health conditions are real. Research shows one in six U.S. youth aged six to seventeen experience a mental health disorder each year. 70,000 Wisconsinites age 12–17 have depression.
Q: What are signs that might indicate a child is struggling with mental health challenges?
A: Signs a child may be experiencing mental health challenges include:
Behavior problem in daycare or school/decrease in performance
Persistent nightmares, excessive fear, worrying or crying
Destruction to self, others or animals
Loss of appetite
Changes in weight
Changes in sleep habits
Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there.
Withdrawal from friends, family and interests.
Q: What is a good path for parents to take to help their struggling child?
A: It can be overwhelming for a parent when their child is in distress or in crisis. It is so important to recognize when your child may be struggling. Paths to getting help for your child could look different for each parent or family. First, letting your child know that they are not alone, then seeking help from a professional to figure out what might be going on and available resources.
Q: There seems to be some denial when it comes to mental health awareness within ourselves. What are some key things to note to determine if you have some type of mental health concern?
A: Education is power. Simply knowing the signs of a mental health condition and practice self-awareness.
Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:
Excessive worrying or fear
Feeling excessively sad or low
Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
Avoiding friends and social activities
Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
Changes in sex drive
Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)
Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (lack of insight or anosognosia)
Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
Thinking about suicide
Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
Q: Is there still stigma associated with mental health challenges? If so, why do you think that is the case?
A: Absolutely there is still stigma surrounding mental health. In my own opinion stigma exists because of lack of education. People simply don’t know or are in denial that mental illness is real. Language is also a huge part of why there is stigma around mental health.
Q: How can friends and family support their loved ones with mental health challenges?
A: Family and friends can support their loved ones by educating themselves on mental health and illness, seeking community resources, attending support groups/counseling. NAMI Rock County offers three free support groups. Peer Support Group - intended for individuals affected by mental illness. Family Support Group - intended for family members of loved ones who have a mental health condition. Lastly, Suicide Loss Grief Support - intended for individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide. We offer these groups once a month. They are free and open to the public. I would also add communication and boundaries are key.
Q: How can people set boundaries for their loved ones struggling with mental health challenges?
A: Setting boundaries is not an easy thing to do. Oftentimes, people view boundaries as a negative. Boundaries are healthy for all relationships. When setting boundaries, it’s important to give your permission, practice being self-aware, and acknowledge your limits. Be consistent, direct, clear, and realistic. Do not feel bad for taking care of you.
Q: How can friends and family encourage their loved ones to seek help?
A: It sometimes can be difficult to convince your loved one to get help. They have to want it themselves for things to work. Be there for questions if they have them or reach out to professionals if you don’t know.
I would recommend seeking out community resources at your local human services department, attending support group/counseling, practicing self-care.
Q: How well do health insurances cover mental health services? How can we encourage better coverage?
A: Not sure if I have the answer on this question… But I do know that each insurance company is different. I would also add that advocacy is huge and just contacting your local legislator, being aware of what’s happening with bills and funding discussion and laws around mental health. Here is an article that might be helpful: Understanding Health Insurance
Q: I see the NAMI Rock County Walk is October 7. Could you tell us about it and how people can get involved?
A: NAMIWalks is the largest, mental health event happening in the country. NAMI Rock County hosts this event every year. This is an awareness and fundraising event that brings awareness to mental illness, supporting those affected by mental illness, raising funds that stay local and go towards our free top-rated programs, and honor those lost to suicide.
This event will take place October 7, 2023 starting at 10:00 AM at Riverside Park in Beloit, Wisconsin. It will be a fun family friendly event with different activities: bouncy house, snacks, food, performers, speakers, community organizations resource booths, and more. This event is free to attend and to register. We are accepting donations at NAMIWalks Rock County
Thank you, Ishanti, for your valuable information. Below are some more resources.
For additional reading: The Basics of Self-Care - NAMI Dane County.
Early Summer Update
The other night I bumped into a group of women who belonged to a book club. They are interested in hosting me at their book club. At the back of Early Summer are discussion questions. Let me know if you wish to have me attend one of your book club gatherings.