May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted 5/13/21

OKEECHOBEE – The Okeechobee County Commission has designated May as Mental Health Awareness Month. New Horizons of the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee requested the designation.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted

OKEECHOBEE – The Okeechobee County Commission has designated May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

OKEECHOBEE – On May 13, the Board of County Commissioners issued a Proclamation to New Horizons of the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee, designating May 2021 as Mental Health Awareness Month in Okeechobee County. (Left to right) Commission Chair Terry Burroughs presentedWilliam Wims and Debbie Clemons with the proclamation.
OKEECHOBEE – On May 13, the Board of County Commissioners issued a Proclamation to New Horizons of the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee, designating …

New Horizons of the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee requested the designation.

According to the county staff report, Mental Health Awareness Month was started in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization (formerly known as the National Association for Mental Health) and has continued to be observed each year thereafter.

Mental health affects every citizen, family, business owner and resident of Okeechobee County and it is a critical factor in emotional and economic stability. Out of approximately 44 million American adults, roughly 18%, are living with a mental health illness; and 13% of American youth, ages 12 - 17, are living with major depression, the proclamation notes.

In 2020, COVID-19 depression, anxiety and substance abuse doubled from the previous year’s finding of one in five adults to two in five adults who are dealing with mental health issues. This translates from 20% of Americans to 40% of Americans needing mental health services. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) predicts that the psychiatric impact of a disaster will hit a community approximately 18 months after the disaster. In addition, stigma remains the primary obstacle to getting help

William Wims, chief executive officer, and Debbie Clemons, treasurer, both of New Horizons of the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee, accepted the proclamation.

County Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said the county commission has supported the creation of Mental Health Court. He said many who need help with mental health wind up in jail.

“For 63 years, New Horizons has been serving this community as its mental health provider,” said Clemons. She said New Horizons serves 15,000 children and adults annually including more than 1,400 in Okeechobee County alone.

“More than half have no income or any insurance, and yet no one is turned away due to lack of financial resources,” Clemons said.

“When you see people stumbling on sidewalks or sleeping in the woods, just know there is not enough mental health help available,” she explained.

Before the pandemic about 20% of Americans suffered from mental health issues. The pandemic has doubled that to 40%, she explained. “This global pandemic has highlighted just how important mental health services are to a community.”

She said in 2020, Okeechobee County experienced 20 suicides. This year to date, the county has experienced two suicides.

Wims said New Horizons plans to set up training for law enforcement officers and do ride-alongs.

A Halloween weekend masquerade dance and dinner at Freedom Ranch is planned as a fundraiser for New Horizons.

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