Statistics signal need for mental health services

Published 5:29 pm Friday, April 15, 2011

At any one time, over a quarter of the adults and a fifth of all children living in Butler County will experience an episode of mental illness in their life.  Whether it’s an illness such as bipolar disorder, substance abuse, emotional disturbance, depression, autism, intellectual impairment or some other condition, few citizens have not been touched in some way by mental health issues in themselves, family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

“There are roughly 9,000 people in Butler County who will need some sort of help in this regard,” said Diane Baughter, executive director of South Central Mental Health, a non-profit organization that serves patients in Butler, Crenshaw, Coffee and Covington Counties.

A staff of 26 employees, including nurses, a psychiatrist, social workers and other professionals serve mental health needs in the county through the Butler Activity and Training Center and the outpatient facility near the city’s industrial park.  But it’s still not enough to meet the needs of one-quarter of the county’s population, Baughter says.

Email newsletter signup

“Right now there are 853 people being served through our mental health facility in Butler County.  Even if we had several private providers seeing a portion of these, it wouldn’t fill the need,” Baugher said.

“There are lots of people out there who need help and are not receiving any.”

Lack of resources and the stigma still attached to mental health issues are two primary reasons people go untreated, Baugher says.

“It’s something people have been ashamed of. But the cause of mental illness is no longer a mystery. We now know it is a biological disorder of brain function and it is treatable,” Baugher said. “Through therapy and medications, we can give these individuals a much better quality of life.”

According to Baugher, when left untreated, mental illness can lead to a myriad of problems, including disability to a level where employment is not an option, a much shorter life span and preventable hospital stays.

Some of the saddest statistics she has to share deal with young people.

One of the most appalling things is the suicide stats. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds in this country, and the sixth among ages 5-15,” Baugher said.

“Ten percent of our children and youth currently suffer from a serious mental illness or emotional disorder, yet only 20 percent will be treated. Seventy percent of those young people will end up in the juvenile justice system. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. We are not doing what we need to be doing for our children here in Butler County because we just don’t have the staff right now.”

In order to put a therapist in place in Greenville, SCAMH is holding a fundraiser “Community Caring  . . .for Children 2011” set for Saturday, May 21 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kiwanis Community Center in Andalusia.

The event will feature food, a silent and live auction, a display of children’s artwork and children and youth performances, with all proceeds going toward funding a therapist’s position in Butler County. The goal is $20,000.

“We are not a state agency, but we do receive funding from the state and like everyone else, we are facing more cuts and we are about as lean as we can get,” Baugher said.

“This is our first fundraiser and we are seeking the support of the communities in our area to help us meet the needs of our children. So far we have raised $7,500 so we feel as if we are off to a great start.”

To learn more about the services offered by the SCAMH and the upcoming fundraiser, contact (334) 222-2525.