Valley group aims to combat mental illness

Mental health is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted these days.
But there is help in the Valley for those who suffer from psychological and behavioral disturbances.

Duet Partners In Health & Aging helps adults who live at home alone and no longer drive by offering services from taking those individuals to doctor appointments to making a visit to the person’s home and making sure there are no health issues.

“(We do) those little things people need help with,” said Wendy Cohen, senior director of services at Duet.

The nonprofit promotes health and well-being and offers free services to homebound adults, family caregivers, faith communities and grandfamilies.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which was started by Mental Health America in 1949. The designation is meant to raise awareness of the negative effects of mental illness.

Duet serves about 375 people in areas that include Glendale, Peoria, Phoenix and Scottsdale.

“Twenty percent of people over age 55 have some sort of mental health concern,” she said.

The pandemic has had a negative impact on those who suffer from mental illness and limited social contact did not help those who already had a state of loneliness, Cohen said.

Depression and anxiety have been rising in some individuals during the pandemic.

Volunteers of the Duet program are tasked to help individuals fight isolation by placing regular phone calls or talking with individuals about their lives.

Duet volunteers can perform some tasks such as changing a light bulb or replacing an air filter its clients might need help with along the way.
“(Volunteers) combat isolation and depression by making a human connection,” Cohen said.

The nonprofit, like others, is constantly on the hunt for volunteers to help, Cohen said.

Each volunteer is required to participate in an orientation and complete a background check to go into homes. Each volunteer is also fingerprinted before they can assist those in need.

Duet staff aims to create a safe environment for those in need of help, she said.

Mental illness knows no boundaries.

Published reports this week said Naomi Judd of the singing group The Judds died by suicide after suffering from mental illness. The Associated Press reported her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley, were “shattered” by their mother’s death.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy,” the statement said. “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her. We are in unknown territory.”

According to the World Health Organization, In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%. The report said “concerns about potential increases in mental health conditions had already prompted 90% of countries surveyed to include mental health and psychosocial support in their COVID-19 response plans, but major gaps and concerns remain.”

“The information we have now about the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”

Symptoms of not eating or sleeping well can be signs a family member is suffering from some sort of mental illness, said Dr. Jerimya Fox, licensed professional counselor and doctor of behavioral health at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital in Scottsdale.

Fox said there has been a rise in post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional stress as a result of the pandemic.

“Paying attention to mental health is equivalent to physical health,” Fox said.
You don’t need a mental health diagnosis to see a behavioral health specialist, Fox said.
Banner Health offers free intake and assessments with a licensed therapist.
“(Individuals) reduce the need for medical services if they are receiving the appropriate mental health care,” he said.


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