Groups aim to beat the stigma surrounding mental illness

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COLUMBIA - May is Mental Health Awareness Month and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year. It's a problem nationwide and in Boone County.

In 2015, the Missouri Department of Mental Health reported more than 1,800 individuals received mental health services in Boone County. Some of the common reasons are anxiety, mood, psychotic, and impulse control disorders, among others.

Laine Young-Walker, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri, said anxiety and depression are most common diagnosis. She said the stigma surrounding mental illness still exists, but there is more awareness now.

“There is more potential for help than there used to be,” Young-Walker said.

She added there is a positive trend in Boone County right now with more mental health resources available. "Boone County Children's Services Board's use of the Children's Mental Health tax dollars has led to increased services."

Young-Walker said there are more youth experiencing trauma and mental health disorders.

These issues are real for survivor Deiondre Riney. He first noticed behavioral changes when he was in high school. “I just lost a lot of interest in stuff that I really did care about,” Riney said.

He said his love for sports and music diminished during those times. Riney said he notices when his friends’ mental health is suffering, even when they can’t see it for themselves.

“The only reason I recognize it is because of stuff I be going through,” he said.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mood disorders, including major depression and bipolar disorder, are some of the most common causes of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults ages 18–44.

The alliance said individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions and a lower life expectancy.

Riney said to cope with his mental health issues, he practices self-care. “I just sit back, relax, sometimes breathing deeply and just realize that stuff isn’t as big as I might be making it,” he said.

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, or your county's health department.