County promoting mental health awareness
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
COLUMBIANA – For Allison Boyd, Mental Health Month is much more than just a proclamation on a piece of paper. It’s a chance to address an unmet need in Shelby County, Alabama and the nation.
“We are trying to spread the word to as many groups as possible,” Boyd said. “We are trying to remove the mental illness stigma and encourage people to seek treatment.”
In late April, the Shelby County Probate Court, for which Boyd serves as mental health programs coordinator and legal counsel, proclaimed May as Mental Health Month coinciding with the national Mental Health Month observation.
Throughout the month, Boyd said she will be working to spread the word about resources and treatment options available to people facing mental illness.
“Sometimes, untreated mental illness impacts our community by creating dangerous situations that must be resolved by law enforcement officers and other first responders,” read a Probate Court release. “Increase suicides, lower productivity and drain on medical health and social services are a more common result of untreated mental illness.
“(Probate) Judge (Jim) Fuhrmeister’s goal with this proclamation is to raise awareness of the issues surrounding people with mental illness and to encourage all citizens, government agencies, public and private institutions, businesses and schools in Shelby County to recommit our community to increasing awareness and understanding of mental illness and the need for appropriate accessible services for all people with mental illnesses,” read the release.
As a long-term goal, Boyd said she is working with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to provide training for deputies on handling situations involving mental illnesses.
Boyd said she is working to institute weeklong mental health training sessions for law enforcement officers later this year. The training will cover issues such as identifying mental illnesses and de-escalating situations involving mentally ill individuals.
“We are fortunate that we have such wonderful law enforcement in Shelby County and that they receive a lot of great training,” Boyd said. “But mental health training is something they don’t have an opportunity to participate in often. We want to give them that opportunity.”