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Bringing Mental Illness Out of the Shadows
By Jennifer Petrie Signore

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in America experience mental illness.  In a given year worldwide, depression is the leading cause of disabling illness in adults. Collectively, mental illness can contribute to a cascade of events leading to lost wages, broken families, incarceration, homelessness, and suicide. However, the stigma surrounding mental illness causes most to avoid seeking help or treatment, to withdraw from family and friends, and to ultimately suffer in silence. 

Reaching out to say, “Are you ok?” or “Is there anything I can do to help?” is a small thing that can make a real difference for an individual in crisis. Many of us don’t take this first step for a number of reasons: perhaps we don’t recognize the crisis, we don’t want to overstep a boundary, or we might be afraid to ask because we simply don’t know what type of help we could possibly offer or advise. Empathy and supportive questioning is used regularly in crisis intervention, and according to Arc Human Services’ Director of Integrated Clinical Services, Grishma Solanki, the first step—the question—is both the most difficult and the most important. “Any one of us could be struggling,” says Solanki, “and having a friend, family member, or colleague offer support just by asking that simple question can make all the difference.”

Arc Human Services provides mental health programming in three southwestern PA counties where individuals will find the compassion, structure, and support needed to regain a sense of empowerment. In many cases, they have lost their families, their jobs, their homes, and their life direction because the symptoms of mental illness interfered with their activities of daily living. Through programs like Community Residential Rehabilitation (group housing), Supportive Housing (supported independent living), individuals with mental health challenges acquire the skills to manage symptoms and reclaim their independence. There are a number of additional services available for individuals with mental health challenges, and Arc Human Services provides collaborative support throughout the journey to produce positive, life-changing outcomes.

For more information on Arc Human Services’ Mental Health Program and other resources and services in Southwestern PA, contact Grishma Solanki, Director of Integrated Clinical Services for Arc Human Services at solankig@archumanservices.org or (724) 745-3010 x 118.

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