(Editor’s note: This story is the fifth part of a multi-part series “Mind Wars,” examining the struggles of the mental illness, depression, that began with Issue #7 and concludes in Issue #12. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
by NICOLE TRUGILLO/Editor-in-Chief
Depression can make someone feel there is no hope in the world.
This mental illness can manipulate people into thinking that there isn’t any hope for them and they can never get better. But one organization is reassuring people that there is still hope for them.
Mental Health America, established in 1909, is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness.
Nathaniel Counts, director of policy for Mental Health America, explains that the organization was founded because of a need to let people who are dealing with mental illness know that there is still hope in the world.
“Fast forward to now, and we’re still driven by that same mission of making sure that people know there is hope,” says Counts. “Letting them know that after recovery, there is a meaningful life of health. We have over 200 associates across America, several in Texas, that do different things.”
Counts explains Mental Health America provides services, peer support groups, and other programs that focus on the same goal, which is helping people and letting them know they can get better.
“We have tools such as the depression tool, which is the clinical validation tool that is reliable,” says Counts. “It will tell you an early indication, whether you suffer from depression or not. You can go to the health care clinic and tell them what your symptoms are, and they usually make you do a follow-up.”
Count says they use this specific tool to help people understand that they may or may not deal with depression.
“As for our organization, we try not to define their mental health, per se,” explains Counts, “because many people experience depression in many different ways. For May, it’s our mental health month, and we listen to people and they tell us their perspective on what they are feeling, or going through, because we don’t know how everyone feels all the time.”
According to the Mental Health America website, anyone who is questioning whether she or she is dealing with depression can click on the tab ‘Mental Health Info,’ and it will lead to information on multiple mental illnesses.
“If you go onto our website, you can see that our organization provides facts, treatments, and symptoms of depression,” explains Counts.
According to Mental Health America, the symptoms of depression include being sad or anxious. Many others suffer from sleeping too much or too little. They have reduced appetites and weight loss, or vice versa. Other clients suffer from loss of pleasure and interest in activities, and in serious cases, thoughts of suicide or death can be involved.
According to Counts, the organization has different programs such as screenings, and they run direct peer support services, which is widely affective because it’s direct.
“Our screenings tend to be roughly teenagers and mostly women from different demographics,” explains Counts. “Our associates who deal with people on the phones get calls from different individuals.”
Counts explains that the organization includes women who have suffered from depression and other mental illnesses, and those same women help others who are going through something similar.
“It has been very affective as well because it’s personal,” explains Counts. “With people who are dealing with depression, during the recovery process, we tend to focus on what they want to do in life. We ask them what they want to do in the world after they go through the process of recovery, and it has shown amazing effects.”
Counts says that even though he works with the policy arm of the organization, his role is to try to change the legislation regulation for people who deal with depression.
“I mainly deal with federal and state levels and forms,” says Counts. “I deal with these types of things to get people to provide more effective and more mental health care for the individuals and reducing discrimination.”
According to Counts and Mental Health America, their goal is to help people who deal with mental illnesses get their life back.
“My advice is you’re not alone,” explains Counts. “There is hope, and everyone can pursue their own recovery. Don’t be afraid to look for help in whatever form works best for you, whether it’s traditional health care, or whatever works best for you. You have to treat other people’s experience with respect.”