May is Mental Health Month rallying cry needs push from RI Legislature

The wisdom in Rhode Island’s May is Mental Health Month’s rallying cry: “Mental Health for Everyone: Invest in Us” is far-reaching this year.

With one in four families having at least one family member with a serious mental health disorder, (World Health Organization), we often look to the individuals with mental illness as warranting attention and we should, but what about family caregivers and parents who day after day shoulder the financial, emotional and physical tolls of helping someone who is seriously ill?

With the surging demand for mental health services and the shortages of psychiatrists, therapists, and beds in psychiatric facilities, the bulk of people who need care are now receiving more of their support at home. This situation aligns perfectly with the latest research that shows that people with mental illness who receive support from family and friends together with a mental health provider, fare better and are more apt to show progress than people who receive support solely from their mental health providers or worse yet, do not receive any professional help.

Jamie Lehane and Sandra Oxx

However, the 8.2 million caregivers (and that number continues to grow daily) who average 32 hours per week of unpaid support are left empty-handed, their nerves frayed, and livelihoods often threatened. According to the National Library of Medicine 2020 study conducted by Dr. Omyna Ehbrahim, caregivers feel their role is “marginalized, undervalued, and invisible to medical services,” and as a result caregivers themselves suffer emotionally with about half at risk for anxiety and depression themselves.

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