Across the nation, advocates and health care professionals recognize “May is Mental Health Month” to promote emotionally healthy lifestyles and encourage people with needs to seek professional treatment.

Accordingly, the staff of the Frostburg office of The Mental Health Center of Western Maryland would like to share some observations about our work and the people we serve.

Some segments of the general public are apprehensive about mental illnesses and believe that people suffer from it are to be avoided. Unfamiliar with strange names like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the reality is that only a small segment of people in any community suffer from those serious brain diseases. Those folks can be and are successfully treated and make wonderful contributions in our neighborhoods.

What is far more pervasive is the violence in our homes and communities. Family violence is more prevalent than the incidence of cancer, it is an unhealthy secret and has been ill some families perpetuated for multiple generations.

Boys and girls are physically and sexually abused. They in turn, grow to become men and women who perpetrate domestic and sexual violence towards their sons and daughters. And so on.

Why? Because they were taught to be dominant and show unhealthy power over weaker family members or simply as a way to manage real life stress. Periodically, the secret is revealed when a murder is committed or a child victim has the support and courage to take legal action.

So one generation teaches the next generation to be perpetrators or passive, accepting victims who pass on the unhealthy attitudes, behaviors and secrets to their descendants. All of this leads to increased incidence of mental illnesses and maladaptive behaviors.

The good people who go about their lives usually agree that bad people should be jailed and punished. We agree and believe that the nation should have zero tolerance for family violence — physical or sexual.

Yet many of us are not aware that family violence and sexual misuse of children and adult partners lead to life-long depression, unhealthy risk taking behaviors, alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, suicide, crimes of violence and many other social ills.

If we could take you to the institutions — the mental hospitals, residential treatment programs, group homes, corrections facilities, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and introduce you to those men and women, you would learn that a sizable majority were abused and misused.

As mental health professionals we encourage all people to join us in recognizing that mental illness is a more pervasive problem than the serious or even at times the misguided media efforts to promote sensitivity or sensationalize the serious brain diseases.

We call on you to support a growing national goal of eliminating child abuse by 2110 by reporting abuse when you see it, to support and encourage victims to seek refuge through the law, seek protection through safe programs, obtain treatment to heal the emotional and cognitive wounds and learn more healthy responses.

If family violence can be eliminated by the next century, even though we will not live to see it, we will have made our communities safer for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. And reduce taxes now used to support the aforementioned program.

May is Mental Health Month. Join us to make a difference!

Shanan Spencer, LCPC and clinical service director; Vanessa Abe, LGSW;

Joy Grabenstein, LCPC; Annette Umbarger, LCPC; Joe Clark, case

manager; Trina Judy, case manager; Leslie Noland, office manager;

John Yarbrough, MD; Mark Lannon, LCSW-C executive director

The Mental Health Center

Frostburg

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