Screenings for substance abuse and mental health concerns are notoriously difficult to enact, but New York City has started taking a new approach by training regular people to respond to individuals who may be facing an addiction, mental illness, or are experiencing abuse.
According to the Associated Press, a youth outreach organization called The Door has begun training average people who are heavily involved in community activities — whether the person is a volunteer basketball coach or a professional career advisor, the center has begun working with NYC officials to develop a training program that will teach people how to spot and respond to a troubled individual.
The city is planning to invest $30 million into mental health training programs, and although the individuals who complete the programs won’t be certified to diagnose or treat any mental or behavioral health issues, these people will hopefully provide guidance and understanding to others who don’t know where to turn.
A national estimate from 2013 states that around 43 million Americans are facing a diagnosable mental illness, but perhaps a more troubling statistic is the fact that 25% of young adults (ages 18 to 34) believe that showing their emotions is a sign of weakness. The Guardian also recently reported that only 50% of people believe anxiety can be considered a mental illness, even though one in every 20 people experiences anxiety.
The problem is multi-faceted and there certainly isn’t just one perfect treatment for everyone. Some people may benefit from taking prescription medications, while others may benefit from smaller changes like exercising more, taking Vitamin D supplements in the winter, or even just redecorating the house to look a little less gloomy. (Believe it or not, 14% of homeowners are bummed out by their own interior decor, and too many harsh shapes or colors have been scientifically proven to disrupt sleep cycles and lower emotional stability).
With the new outreach training program in NYC, the specific treatments aren’t what matters. Simply letting people know that it’s okay and natural to have emotions — and that it’s okay to get help when these emotions become too overwhelming — is something that could change, and even save, countless lives.