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Resources focused on during Mental Health Awareness Week

Commercial-News - 5/21/2019

May 21-- May 21--DANVILLE -- When Vermilion County families and individuals come to Jeri Spezia, she can act as a resource guide and also an advocate to help them juggle services.

As Vermilion County Complex Service Planning coordinator and administrative assistant with the Vermilion County Mental Health 708 Board, she works with people who are involved in multiple systems in the county.

Spezia said a family will usually come to her and, for example, has a juvenile who has been ordered by a judge to undergo counseling. She then helps them get the needed resources and into the services they need.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week with the theme "It's Okay to Not Be Okay."

This is the second year the City of Danville officially designated and recognized the week with a proclamation. The community group Step-Up, which focuses on mental health, drug prevention and family parenting, has a goal of raising awareness of local mental health services.

Prior to reading this year's proclamation at a recent city council meeting, Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said oftentimes in life if someone has an ailment or a sickness, they go to the doctor if it's physical. But sometimes people may have problems in their minds.

He also said "... it's also very important that we encourage people to talk to someone if they need that help; that they get the resources and the help and the support that they need in order to overcome whatever struggle they're having."

Vermilion County's Mental Health 708 Board Director Jim Russell will address the Danville City Council about mental health at its meeting tonight.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Larry Baughn also offered proclamation about the designated week.

In a press release, Russell said "We are engaging as many partners as we can during the week to highlight the resources available; too often people think they have nowhere to turn if they realize they need help, but help is available."

An outgrowth of the Vermilion County Mental Health Initiative that began in 2015, this week is now annually set aside to raise awareness across the community about the importance of recognizing signs of mental health problems.

Russell says it is important for all of us to realize mental health is as important as physical health and it is time to remove the stigma that often surrounds mental health issues and prevents people from getting the help they may need to put their lives back together.

"People are diagnosed everyday with cancer and we do all we can to help them and support them, yet if someone is having mental health problems, we often shun them, or are afraid to offer help; everyone can benefit when they know someone cares about them," he said.

The initiative offers nationally recognized mental health training for youth and adults to help them understand if peers are struggling and how to get them help.

The Vermilion County Mental Health Initiative meets monthly to work on partnerships and opportunities to expand resources and providers, as well as raising awareness about mental health to remove the stigma that too often surrounds it.

"We need to get people to understand their mental health is as important as their physical health, and if they are having problems, they can get help and return to their lives," Russell said.

Spezia said what this year's theme "It's Okay not to be Okay" for Mental Health Awareness Week means to her is "there's a stigma attached to mental health. We really are trying to make people aware you don't have to live in that stigma and believe that you don't have the right to reach out if you're not feeling well mentally."

"It's really something we're trying to break free of," Spezia said, adding that they want people to reach out and say they could use some help.

A Vermilion County Resource List is available at the website Spezia said it covers mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities.

She said resources are constantly changing.

"Programs kind of come and go in our area," she said, adding that she regularly updates the information about new programs within agencies such as with Crosspoint and Rosecrance.

In addition to various local services and resources, there also are community events.

Local mental health officials want people to save the date for an inspirational national speaker coming to the area later this year.

The 708 Board and OSF HealthCare has worked together to bring Kevin Hines to Vermilion County on Oct. 3. Hines survived after jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif. during a suicide attempt. He now talks about suicide, positivity and how you can change, get help and feel better, Spezia said.

"We're very excited to have him," she said.

He will be talking in Westville to more than 1,000 south Vermilion County school students, and also northern Vermilion County students at another presentation.

He also will speak to Danville Area Community College students and then at a free presentation at 6 p.m. at Second Church of Christ, which will be open to the public. There also will be a health fair following the public presentation featuring local resources.

Spezia said anyone who might be looking for a pamphlet or to talk to someone with a certain agency can do so that night.

If anyone has questions about local resources, Spezia can be contacted at 443-3500.


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