Letter: Don't be afraid to seek help for mental health

To the Editors:
A Presidential Proclama-tion designates May as National Mental Health Awareness Month, noting that tens of millions of Americans live with the burden of a mental health problem.
Today in Fairfield County, approximately 206,000 people are living with mental health or substance use issues. Roughly one of five individuals live with a mental illness and one in 11 use substances to a level of abuse — oftentimes to self-medicate a mental illness.
These numbers suggest mental health problems affect nearly every family in our town, yet we too often struggle to have an open and honest conversation about these issues. Misperceptions, fears of social consequences, and fear of discrimination all tend to keep people silent. Thankfully, if they get help, most people with mental illnesses can and do recover and lead happy, productive, and full lives.
This month and every month, I encourage our community members to promote mental health as a key component of overall health and wellness. We cannot improve the mental health of our community if we do not improve how people view mental health and mental illness by promoting acceptance, eliminating misperceptions, and reducing negative attitudes associated with mental illnesses.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with stress, depression, anxiety or any other mental health issues, please reach out to them and encourage them to seek help. A good place to start is by calling 211 — the statewide InfoLine or Wilton Social Services where we can assist you to find a mental health professional.
Since raising awareness starts with education, I encourage all town residents to participate in May awareness events in our area. Be sure to take advantage of the dozens of free opportunities to learn more that are available throughout Fairfield County during May! The Mental Health Awareness Month Calendar of free and public events is available at town halls, libraries, social services offices, and online at the website of the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board, HealthyMindsCT.org.
By making health and wellness an inspiring, positive goal for individuals and communities, we will create a more welcoming and nurturing community for all.
Catherine Pierce, LCSW
Director, Wilton Social Services
Wilton, April 28