Other Opinions

Join the conversation on mental illness on Tuesday

Laura Kinsey
Laura Kinsey

We all have family members, or know someone, or have experienced ourselves some form of mental illness.

At Gulf Coast Family Counseling in Ocean Springs, the only non-profit mental health agency on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we counsel and treat individuals and families facing a range of challenges, including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. We teach coping skills, relationship skills, anger management, assertiveness, problem solving, logic skills and parenting skills to ease suffering and improve relationship bonds…and we have been doing this continuously since 1967.

More recently, we have been discussing how we can engage our community to try to help remove any stigma from those suffering from some kind of mental affliction, and to raise the volume, importance and impact of having forthright conversations. Recent national events have significantly raised the level of urgency of this dialog.

The mental health statistics are compelling.

According to the National Institutes of Health, twenty percent of Americans currently experience some type of chronic mental illness, with half of these beginning before the age of fourteen. Seventy percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health condition. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death at all ages, and the third leading cause of death among young people. Fourteen percent of high school students have seriously considered suicide. People who suffer from mental conditions are much more likely to be the victims of a violent crime than the perpetrators.

Using fifteen weighted criteria, Mississippi ranks 50th in the overall prevalence of mental illness and access to care.

And the United Way for Jackson and George Counties recently ranked mental health as our community’s number one unmet need.

To jumpstart the dialog in our community, we will be hosting “A Neighborhood Conversation on Mental Health and Wellness” on Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs. It will begin with a light breakfast followed by a panel presentation, a facilitated discussion and a question-and-answer period.

Thanks to our sponsors, the event is free and open to the general public.

Our panelists for this event will be:

▪ Pam Rone, Principal, Singing River Academy (5th and 6th grades), Gautier

▪ Brother John Whitfield, Morning Star Baptist Church, Gulfport

▪  Leonard Papania, Chief, Gulfport Police Department

▪ Laura Kinsey, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Family Counseling

Our hope at this event is not just to surface issues and to discuss critical needs for resources, but to make connections in our community that might add additional threads to our community’s mental health safety net.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Gulf Coast Family Counseling has been successful in providing life-changing therapy to individuals of all ages, couples, families and groups for 51 years. Mental wellness is a subject of increasing urgency. Please join us on Tuesday.

Laura Kinsey, a licensed clinical social worker, is executive director of Gulf Coast Family Counseling