Just like physical health, we all have mental health and getting the help you need is important

A lot of times there can be a stigma attached to mental health, but we all have it and we all deal with it and it’s important to realize that just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong.

Maureen Dunleavy, the Regional Vice President of the Guidance Care Center, an organization that has locations all over the Keys, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM this morning to talk about mental health.

The Guidance Care Center has been in the area for more than 50 years.

A mobile response team was created in 2019. It provides a 24 hour hotline for anyone can call if he or she is in crisis or if someone you know is in crisis.

Dunleavy said, “We help people whether you can pay for it or not. We get a majority of our funding from the state of Florida. We have federal funding. Of course we do accept Medicaid or Medicare. The key point is that whether someone can afford services or not, they’re going to get the help they need.” 

Fourteen accredited programs fall under the umbrella of the Guidance Care Center and they are available to everyone at every age – no one is immune.

Dunleavy said, “Mental health is everybody has it and we manage our mental health. There’s kind of like this idea out there that oh if you have mental health issues, there’s something wrong with you, but the truth is just like we have physical health, we all have mental health and we all have stressors in our lives and we may need different tools to help us deal with whatever’s going on with us personally.”

The weather can affect how people feel and act and with Tropical Storm Alex on the horizon, people might struggle. Reports are already predicting four to eight inches of rain through Saturday and winds of up to 40 or 45 miles per hour. 

Dunleavy pointed out, “After Hurricane Irma, we partnered with the Department of Health and the CDC to do a study and they found that there’s a link between natural disasters and suicide ideation or mental health issues.”

In the Keys, anxieties can rise during hurricane season because of the potential loss.

The Guidance Care Center serves Monroe County and the Keys and partners with a variety of different organizations to help people.

Dunleavy said, “Definitely everyone can be impacted by their circumstances. Mental health is managed, not cured. That means that we’re going to have different stressors in our lives and we need to have a whole host of tools to be able to deal with those issues.”

One of the tools is to learn to focus on what you can control. A hurricane certainly can’t be controlled, but your reaction to it can be. So having tools and having a way to cope with the stress that comes with natural disasters is paramount.

Dunleavy pointed out, “The other key piece is that most of the things that we worry about don’t happen and if they do happen, we’re better able to handle them than we give ourselves credit for. So a lot of that worry and anxiety ends up being wasted energy.”

The mass shooting news in the country recently also affects people’s mental health. Indeed, some reports suggest that mental health can play a part in the shooter’s mindset as well.

Dunleavy said, “Everybody has mental health. It’s treatable, not curable. If you’re an anxious person, you’re going to be an anxious person probably your whole life. It’s going to vary in degrees and impairment and functioning, depending upon what’s going on. We all have mental health issues and so having a diagnosed mental health issue or not, really is not the point.”

Mental health really isn’t always a predictor of violent acts. 

Dunleavy said, “The other key point is even when we talk about suicide prevention, if someone’s feeling depressed and then they start drinking alcohol, that’s going to impair your judgment and so if you make an impulsive decision if you have access to a firearm, you could end up hurting yourself or hurting somebody else.”

What are the warning signs or behaviors of a person that needs more mental health care?

Dunleavy said, “Often times we don’t reach out to other people. We expect them to reach out to us if they’re struggling and really if we notice something’s up with something, someone they seem a little off, we haven’t seen them in a while. Sometimes just reaching out and touching base can be lifesaving, whether we’re talking about suicide or we’re talking about harm to others. If we’re concerned about somebody and they’re not willing to get help, there methods that clients get that people can take to engage people to get help.”

One number to reach all the services for the Guidance Care Center is 305-434-7660 or log onto www.guidancecarecenter.org