Mental Health Program

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COLUMBIA - When someone goes to the doctor for a checkup, they might expect the regular look at their eyes, ears, and knees.

Now, local leaders want to add your brain to the list.

"We know so much more about mental health than we used to," Boone County Human Services Manager Steve Hollis said. "It's important that we make mental health a bigger part of your overall health going forward."

The Boone County Health Department, in connection with Burrell Behavioral Health, has created a new program aimed at identifying early signs of mental illness, specifically in children.

"We know one in five people in our country experience some form of mental illness, so we want to try to identify the signs of it sooner," Hollis said. "This campaign is targeted at youth, but also people who care about them. That means family, teachers and coaches." 

Hollis and other program leaders will work directly with all public schools in Boone County to expose students to mental health resources. Hollis said the department wants to eliminate the stigma around mental illness.

"We want people to know it is okay to go get help. If you have a child with a [knee] sprain, nobody is going to hesitate about talking to that child about seeing a doctor," Hollis said. "In our society, we still have hesitation with talking about mental health issues. We want to see that hesitation go away and people get more comfortable talking about these issues."

Hollis said the department has worked with local mental health doctors to identify signs parents can look for in their children.

"Isolation and anger are two things to look at. Adults already have a hard time showing when they're not feeling good and it's even more challenging for young people," he said. 

The initiative, Look Around Boone, urges people to speak up if they notice a loved one struggling with symptoms.

"We need the community to realize, if you see something in someone, whether its a friend, family member, student, client, or a customer, take a moment, and if the time is right, say something," Hollis said. "That encouragement could help someone reach out to get help when they need it."