West Texas Centers sets community events

May is Mental Health Month, and West Texas Centers is raising awareness of mental illness by hosting a number of community-based events.Mental Health Month was created more than 50 years ago by Mental Health America to emphasize the importance of mental wellness and promoting good mental health.West Texas Centers hosts several events throughout the year calling attention to the importance of recognizing and treating mental illness but puts a special emphasis on the month of May in conjunction with Mental Health Month.“We host Consumer Appreciation Days in our area mental health centers as a way of telling our consumers that we appreciate them, and we are glad that they entrust us with their care,” West Texas Centers CEO Shelley Smith, LMSW, said.West Texas Centers provides mental health care for more than 2,000 consumers and their families every month. Illnesses range from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia.Children also are provided treatment, Smith said.“Depression and other mental illnesses in children can be very serious,” Smith said. “It’s very important to watch for warning signs, changes in behavior and to believe your children when they tell you something is wrong. Early detection can lead to better treatment and a happier youth.”Many children may be living with mental health issues and may be the victims of school bullies because of their illness.“We make a special effort to reach out to our children during Mental Health Month,” she said.Gift bags for children throughout the 23 counties will be distributed as they arrive for services at the 15 mental health centers. Services for children include: psychiatric evaluations and screenings; case management; medication monitoring;, social skills training; parenting skills; family counseling; home- and school-based intervention; and assistance with Medicaid applications.All the Mental Health Centers are planning special events throughout the month of May. On May 12 and 13, children served at the Howard County Mental Health Center will receive a gift bag, be treated to refreshments and be entered in a drawing for one of four special gift baskets – two for a boy and two for a girl. On May 18, all adults receiving services will be entered in a drawing for one of two gift baskets – one for a male and one for a female.Many people who are living with mental illness never ask for help because of the stigma attached to the illness, Smith said. Other reasons they may not receive treatment is because of lack of information, cost or health insurance.“Our job is to educate the public that mental illness is treatable,” Smith said. We also want people to know that mental illness is a disease just as diabetes or hypertension are illnesses. It is treatable with medication and therapy. We urge anyone who may not be receiving care to contact us.”West Texas Centers operates a Mental Health Crisis Hotline. The Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day / seven days a week. That number is 1-800-375-4357.