This article is a part of Families for Depression Awareness’ Hope and Discovery campaign.

By Kurt Morris, November 14, 2017

Kurt and his partner, Jane

As a volunteer who believes in the work of Families for Depression Awareness, I was glad to attend the fourth annual “Evening of Hope and Discovery” last month in downtown Boston. I met and mingled with staff, volunteers, members of the Board of Directors, families, caregivers, and those who support FFDA’s mission. Food, drinks, and conversations were had while music by Tunefoolery filled the room. In addition, a silent auction helped raise money for FFDA. The biggest impact for me, though, came through the keynote speaker’s presentation, which resonated for me and my own experience with seeking mental health care.

The keynote speaker, Natalie Litton, is Policy and Project Coordinator at Health Care For All, a Massachusetts-based advocacy organization that works to ensure health care access, quality, and affordability for all Massachusetts residents. Natalie is co-author of “The Urgency of Early Engagement: Five Persistent Barriers to Mental Health Treatment, Care and Recovery in Massachusetts and the Search for Solutions,” an HCFA report released this fall. It identifies and examines five barriers that keep individuals from getting mental health care and achieving recovery, while also suggesting steps that could alleviate those issues.

In her remarks, Natalie explained the barriers, which include

1) Knowledge Barriers, or a lack of information about mental health conditions and care, making it harder to get help

2) Attitude Barriers, such as prejudices held by others toward those experiencing mental health issues

3) Insurance Barriers, as the complexities of insurance keep many from getting the help they need

4) Price Barriers, despite attempts to make mental health care affordable, there are still many who find it cost-prohibitive

5) Delivery Barriers, one of which is the challenge of finding a mental health professional with whom the person living with mental health issues can relate

I, personally, have had experiences with all five of these barriers. As a teen in the 1990s, it was difficult to find information to educate myself and my family about what depression was, let alone how to treat it. Unfortunately, from both the report and my perspective, this is still a problem today. As an FFDA volunteer, I support FFDA’s commitment to breaking down this barrier through free and accessible programs and literature.

FFDA’s work can topple the second barrier: prejudices held by others. People speaking openly about their lived experiences with mood disorders does a great deal to destigmatize depression and bipolar disorder. It also helps others feel less isolated and more comfortable to get help.

FFDA’s work also touches on the other three barriers. Through its Care for Your Mind advocacy blog, FFDA shines a light on issues of access, quality, and affordability for mental health care. The blog also provides information so that people living with depression or bipolar disorder and their families can be educated on policy issues and advocate on their own behalf. Additionally, FFDA’s website shares information and resources for finding care.

Natalie Litton

Natalie also discussed solutions to these concerns, including (but not limited to) helplines, peer support groups, policy changes, and engagement programs. She acknowledged that many of these solutions will have to come at the state level, though some can also come to fruition through partnerships between non-profits and government agencies.

In a way that moved everyone in the room, Natalie shared her own struggles with mental health. I believe that her emerging from a place of severe depression to achieving success with a remarkable report on the state of mental health care is well worth noting. I’m always impressed and excited by these stories of success. I’m sure that Natalie, like everyone handling mental health disorders, has her good and bad days. It gives me hope and encouragement to see people working through their mental health issues and finding wellness and fulfillment.

In comments that underscored FFDA’s work and mission, Natalie pointed out the importance of caregiver involvement in her recovery. She also acknowledged that not everyone has such individuals to support them. My situation has often found me going it alone, so to speak. Too often, the families of people living with mental health issues aren’t able to provide the kind of support and care needed to aid their mental health recovery. But support doesn’t have to come from immediate family: friends, extended family, communities, members of a religious organization, and others can help fill that gap. FFDA’s Evening of Hope and Discovery gave us all a time to come together and reflect on the importance of family and caregivers to help loved ones get and stay well.

FFDA thanks Kurt Morris for his recent articles that illustrate the themes of hope and discovery. You, too, can be an active FFDA volunteer! Fill out a volunteer form today.

 

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