A Sound Mind: Community Based Mental Health Treatment

Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 12:33 PM EDT
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Television and Movies often portray mental health treatment in a negative light, further reinforcing the stigma that surrounds it. In our continuing series, A Sound Mind, Brian Bouchard looks at the origins of Community Based Mental Health Treatment.

AMHC was founded after public support for Mental Asylums waned, according to Michelle Ferris, Chief Operations Officer for AMHC.

“AMHC was founded in 1964, so we’ve been around for a while and it was part of deinstitutionalization where community mental health centers were developed nationally.”

Prior to the 1960′s, the treatment of mental health disorders revolved around involuntary commitment to a Mental Asylum or Hospital. Following several national, high profile cases of abuse, neglect or misconduct, these facilities were removed from the public landscape in favor of community based mental health centers.

“And the goal was to really help people to be able to live in the community and have a better quality of life if individuals had mental illness, chronic and persistent mental illness instead of always needing to be institutionalized.”

While mental hospitals do still exist, several Supreme Court decisions have limited the ability of state facilities to confine people against their will due to severe mental health disorders. They are instead treated in the communities in which they live.

“So we offer services that kind of run the spectrum from least intensive to most intensive to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of individuals in the community, depending on what it is that’s going on for them”

Recent tragedies, both nationally and locally have highlighted the severity of mental health disorders. According to data provided by Mental Health America, Over 20% of all adults in the state of Maine have some form of diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder other than a developmental or substance use disorder. Of those nearly 5% of all adults in the state have had serious thoughts of suicide.

“When a tragedy in the community happens, the first place that people start to point to is mental health or substance use issues and I think it’s important to note that individuals that have chronic and persistent mental illness are no more likely to be violent than the general population.”

Ferris says more focus needs to be placed on prevention and treatment of mental health disorders, raising awareness, rendering aid and combating the stigma that may deter someone from seeking help.

Brian Bouchard, Newsource8

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