Pasadena Mental Health Day on Saturday Aspires to Break the Cycle Of Mental Illness, Inspire Hope
The month of May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949. Pasadena is leveraging that tradition by hosting a free, educational event that will see presentations and workshops to provide residents with healthy coping skills and information about community-based mental health resources.
“There are still significant misunderstandings about mental health issues,” said Pasadena Public Health Department Director Michael Johnson.
“Most people understand significant mental health problems, but lesser issues such as depression and anxiety, anything which might interfere with basic life functions, are issues which can be helped with support from your medical home,” added Johnson.
Mental health issues are often taboo subjects in families and communities, but are a realities that affect a large number of people everywhere.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in five American adults experienced a mental health issue in 2014.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and accounts for the loss of more than 41,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicide.
“We want to normalize the concept and we want people to recognize that there’s lots of different types of mental health challenges from mild to moderate to more severe. Even for mild and moderate things that are potentially impacting your daily life functions, you should be seeking support,” explained Johnson.
“What we’re trying to focus on is the fact that people should not wait for a mental health problem to get out of control or disable you to seek services early. Many problems can be addressed through either therapeutic support or medication support,” explained Johnson.
Only 44 percent of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20 percent of children and adolescents receive needed treatment, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health concerns. These mental health problems are often clinically diagnosable, and can be a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors.
Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.
Johnson who mentioned that many people associate mental health issues with severe conditions such as schizophrenia, however issues like mild depression are just as concerning and require correct assistance.
Unfortunately, less than 20 percent of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early mental health support can help a child before problems interfere with other developmental needs.
The Affordable Care Act and the expansion of healthcare to most residents have provided for a significant expansion in health care service access, and for the first time is inclusive of behavioral health services to address mental health and substance abuse problems through services via healthcare providers, according to Johnson
“We as a society need to look at mental health as a part of general overall health and wellness,” said Johnson
Mental illness is known to contribute homelessness and other related issues.
According to Pasadena’s 2017 Homeless Count & Survey, 19 percent of persons experiencing homelessness self-identity as having a mental illness, as do 47 percent of the long-term homeless.
This suggests that mental illness may contribute to or result from homelessness, and that it may lengthen episodes of homelessness.
“Stable housing is critical to stable mental health, and mental health challenges can lead to instability in housing, so the two are closely linked,” said Anne Lansing, of the Pasadena Housing Department.
The Pasadena Police Department plays key role in interfacing with the community to help break the cycle of mental illness on both a public safety and clinical level.
The Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation Team, known as the H.O.P.E. team, was established in 2002 with the primary focuses of conducting homeless outreach and responding to mental health crisis calls.
The L.A. County Department of Mental Health provides a clinician who teams up with an officer as a co-response team.
“Mental health is is an issue across the United States and I think by having response teams we’re just another resource for the community. Mental health is so important because it’s about bridging that gap,” said Pasadena Police H.O.P.E. Officer Domino Scott-Jackson.
H.O.P.E. responded to approximately 450 mental health calls since May, 2016, according to Scott-Jackson.
Of those calls only 16 individuals were hospitalized.
“What that tells me is that when we respond and we’re able to de-escalate, we’re able to implement a treatment plan get it done,” said Scott-Jackson who also said that approximately 65 percent of calls made to the Pasadena Police Department are mental health related.
What makes the H.O.P.E. Team different from similar units in other departments is that H.O.P.E. Team members are first responders to emergency mental health crisis calls, and are proactive by continuously seeking out contact with people who are in need of services prior to potentially volatile situations occurring, according to the Pasadena Police Department website.
The team’s target population are street-level and sheltered homeless, as well as mental health consumers within the city limits.
Another major aspect of the H.O.P.E. approach is working on relationship building and “planting the seed” of trust for the next contact. This is critical in convincing people to accept services prior to them being in a crisis and critical in being able to de-escalate a situation when they are in crisis.
“I think bringing in the police department and establishing a response team is very effective in building that relationship with the community. It’s not just the officers coming to the door or coming to that call — it’s a clinician who is an expert in making the appropriate decisions. I think by having such a dynamic team and having the expertise amongst the officer and the clinician they can make the best decision for that person who’s in crisis at the particular time,” said Scott-Jackson.
The H.O.P.E. team and other established mental health teams meet regularly to discuss trends and best practices as a coalition Scott-Jackson founded called Los Angeles County Mental Evaluation Teams (LACMET).
“We are proud to say that we now have 25 police agencies throughout Los Angeles County as well as Department of Mental Health clinicians that participate in our monthly training meetings,” said Scott-Jackson whose training topics include conservatorship process, de-escalation techniques, Lanterman–Petris–Short laws regarding the involuntary civil commitment to a mental health institution, firearm seizures and homeless outreach services.
City officials, the H.O.P.E. team and mental health experts will be on hand at the Mental Health Day event and will provide hands-on workshops that include a Trauma Release Exercise, Safety Tips for Bystander Intervention, Bullying and Internet Safety Advocacy and Disability Rights in California.
The Pasadena Mental Health Day “Breaking the Cycle, Healing Our Community” event kicks off May 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the at the Pasadena Public Library located at 285 E. Walnut St.