Working Together to Prevent Mental Illness in Our Region

Any doctor will tell you that preventing heart disease is a better solution than waiting until the first heart attack.

Prevention strategies are also effective in preventing certain mental health conditions. Mental and emotional well-being is essential to overall health.

Positive mental health allows people to realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life, work productively, and make meaningful contributions to their communities.

Intervening at the first sign of symptoms offers the best opportunity to make a significant, positive difference in both immediate and long-term outcomes for people affected by mental health issues. Yet studies show fewer than 30 percent of people with mental health challenges seek treatment.

In addition to early intervention, another approach is primary prevention, or taking action before behavioral health problems occur. This approach requires looking at the role that the social, physical, economic and cultural environments play in contributing to behavioral health problems and how those environments can be changed to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

By enhancing factors that protect people from developing mental health symptoms and diminishing those factors that put them at risk for poor mental health, we can reduce the onset of some of the mental health illnesses, reduce symptoms and disability and support people in their journey to recovery.

There are many efforts going on in our region that do just this.

  • In Missouri, Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) are creating health homes to address both mental illness and other medical conditions.
  • CMHC are also working on hospital diversion efforts to help identify people who need mental health services during an emergency department visit.
  • Community partners interested in improving mental health throughout the bi-state region are working through MARC’s Regional Health Care Initiative on a trauma-informed care effort to promote understanding and resilience for trauma survivors.

Improving the mental health of our community is a collaborative effort that needs to include all sectors. I’m proud of the work that we are collectively doing as a region to invest in mental health services that promote hope, recovery and community inclusion, and I look forward to expanding these efforts.

By promoting mental health and preventing mental illness, we can increase the number of people who enjoy good mental health instead of seeing continuous increases in those with severe mental illness. The impact of this will have far reaching impact in our community as we increase employability, improve physical health, see kids thriving in school and reduce crime, all while creating a healthier community for everyone in greater Kansas City.

Don’t forget to vote for your top mental health prevention strategy in HCF’s Health Madness Wellness Tournament. Voting opens at 7:30 a.m., this Thursday. You still have time to fill out a bracket before the voting begins.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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