By JENNI AUTRY
Mental illness — it’s a taboo topic that’s made headlines in recent months. And it’s an issue that affects more people than you might think. One in four women will face severe depression at some point in life, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Many women feel they barely have time to breathe during their busy days, much less worry about their mental health. But failing to seek help early on is one of the biggest mistakes women make, according to Rose Alberghini, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of York County.
“When it starts to interfere with your everyday life, when you can’t carry out your everyday duties, when you don’t find you’re enjoying things that you have usually enjoyed — that’s when you need to get help,” Alberghini said. “The woman is the caregiver, always thinking about other people and their needs. Sometimes, we have to put ourselves first.”
Putting yourself first means finding the courage to take that first step toward receiving help. Alberghini recommends making an appointment with your primary care physician to rule out other medical issues that could be causing symptoms. Once a doctor has eliminated other possibilities, it’s time to seek the appropriate treatment.
“It’s a good idea to seek a psychiatrist because they have the expertise, particularly with the medications, to tell you what the appropriate treatment would be, including some types of therapy,” Alberghini said. “Medication may be the answer, or it may not be. It may be a combination of therapy and medications.”
Education also becomes very important in the early stages of seeking mental health services, Alberghini said. Many times women will blame themselves for the way they are feeling, when in fact a mental health issue is the cause.
“Sometimes we beat ourselves up over the symptoms, like when we can’t get out of bed in the morning or we can’t concentrate on things,” Alberghini said. “But when we educate ourselves about the illness and realize that’s what causes the symptoms, you realize it’s not you and it’s not your fault.”
Mental Health America of York and Adams Counties prides itself on acting as a resource center for women facing mental health challenges. Utilizing organizations like MHAY when starting your mental health journey can help make the process less daunting, Kim Stratton, MHAY executive director, said.
“We can help women navigate the system,” Stratton said. “Many times we’re the first place they come to, which is wonderful because we’re tapped into the mental health community and can help with referrals for appointments.”
When it comes time to make that first appointment with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional, Stratton believes finding a friend or family member to serve as a support system can make the process less intimidating.
“It takes a lot of strength to make that first phone call,” Stratton said. “Women who have that support to go with them to that first appointment or be next to them making that phone call can find the courage to follow through.”
Courage can be hard to find, especially when a woman is facing the crushing weight of a mental health illness. But finding the inner strength to get help can change your life, a fact Alberghini, who faced her own mental health battle, knows firsthand.
“You will have your life back. You will be able to really live again,” Alberghini said. “Treatments will work to a certain extent for 80 to 90 percent of women. Don’t put off getting the help you need.”
Affordable mental health solutions
Finances or lack of health insurance are two of the biggest hurdles preventing women from getting help.
Here are some of the low-cost options in York:
East Side Health Center, 850 E. Princess St., York: Provides behavioral health care and other medical services for women who are uninsured or underinsured. Call 717-801-0971 to schedule an appointment.
Healthy York Network, 116 S. George St., Suite 101, York: Provides a discount on mental health services for the uninsured and underinsured. Must fill out an application to be approved. Call 717-812-2990 or
Family First Health, 116 S. George St. and 415 E. Boundary Ave., York: Provides medical and social services using a sliding-fee scale. Call 717-845-8617 or 717-843-5174 or visit www.familyfirsthealth.org.
HealthConnect Van, 2130 S. Queen St., 2179 S. Queen St., York Township, and 412 W. King St., 373 W. Market St., York: Provides primary care and specialized physician referrals for uninsured women. Call 717-851-1689 for an updated weekly schedule.
Katallasso Family Health Center, 38 S. Belvidere Ave., York: Provides physician referrals for uninsured and underinsured women. Call 717-577-7100 or visit www.katclinic.com.
Other local resources
Mental Heath America of York and Adams Counties, 36 S. Queen St., York, offers education, resources and support groups for women facing mental health challenges. MHAY also provides the Warmline, an anonymous and confidential non-crisis telephone support line for women in need of someone who will listen.
The Warmline is staffed by survivors of mental illness and is available 5 to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call the Warmline at 717-718-7711. For more information on MHAY, call 717-843-0185 or visit www.mhay.org.
National Alliance on Mental Illness of York County, 140 Roosevelt Ave., Suite 200, York, serves as an educational and support network for women facing mental illness. NAMI hosts a weekly mental illness support group 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at Northwest Human Services, 651 Albright Ave., York, and 10-11:30 a.m. Thursdays at NAMI, 140 Roosevelt Ave., Suite 200, York. A depression support group meets at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at Hanover Hospital. For more information on NAMI, call 717-848-3784 or visit www.namiyork.org.