(Editor’s note: The first of a two-part series on mental health in Sherburne County, part two will focus on children’s mental health.)
by Bob Grawey
The number of adults needing mental health services in Sherburne County increased significantly in 2010, according to a report released April 12, 2011, by the Sherburne County Department of Health & Human Services.
The county’s mental health supervisor, Mary Jo Cobb, says the rise from 2009 to 2010 was partially a result of bringing adult mental health services back under the county’s direct care.
They had been outsourced, and all services rendered were subject to a level of specified number of contracted hours.
Since bringing those services in-house, Cobb says it became apparent that the need for adult mental health services was greater than previously realized.
The rise in adult mental health services in Sherburne County is evident in a graph that shows 94 clients were given mental health services in January 2009. Just 24 months later, that number had climbed to 142 clients.
“That’s a significant increase,” Cobb says.
Her staff of four adult mental health case workers each has a case load of 30 – 35 clients, and though this is a state standard, a continued rise in the need for adult mental health services would strain that capacity.
Mental health can include various assessments and needs, Cobb says, and is basically how a person looks at the world and deals with it.
Impaired mental health, for instance, can be caused from some kind of trauma. A post traumatic stress disorder can be the result of a car wreck, Cobb says. Someone in that category of mental health disorders might go into hysterics or some deep panic at the sound of a car door slamming or even hitting a deep pothole while riding in a car.
It is really anything that triggers the impact of that event, such as a car backfire that might cause an Iraqi veteran to “hit the deck” as Cobb describes it.
“As people experience trauma, it changes how their brain is wired,” Cobb explains. “Other people are born with their brain not wired right and they will have some sort of brain disorder.”
Another category of brain disorder can be caused from chemical abuse. But prescription drugs can be just as guilty in altering one’s brain, according to Cobb.
Chronic stress factors can cause mental health issues too, such as depression. Stress can dictate how a person deals with life and if those stress factors are present every day, it can lead to a mental heath problem.
Cobb cites jobs that continuously have high levels of stress and home situations that are regularly filled with fighting and arguing as being high stressors that tend to cave in on people.
“You may not even be personally involved in these things,” Cobb contends, “but if you keep seeing these stressful things happening around you on a regular basis, it will have an effect on your brain.”
The most common mental health disorders the county is seeing involves major depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorders, borderline personality disorder and psychosis. These are mental health issues in which people are generally hospitalized at some point.
Depression-related mental health disorders are on the rise, though, and Cobb says this is at least due in part to a bad economy. Someone who loses his or her job and is unable to find employment can slip into a depression caused from fractured self-esteem and lack of worth.
Having a job allows a person to be able to buy the things needed in life, Cobb says.
“We all could be susceptible (to some kind of mental health problem),”she adds, “given the right circumstances.”
One in five adults will experience some kind of mental health obstacle in their life, Cobb says, that could be a less severe case of depression that does not involve hospitalization or medication in order to recover.
If someone suspects they might have a mental health issue going on, they can get help from therapy or they can see their medical doctor to consider medication in their road to recovery.
Treatment for more severe mental health disorders can involve hospitalization, day treatments and support through one’s employer.
Part of the way to help someone facing a mental health issue is to teach that person the life skills they need to adapt to change and to how to function reasonably well as a member of society.
For those who may need help with a mental health issue, or who knows someone who needs help, can call Sherburne County at 763-241-2600 and ask to be connected to adult mental health services.