Secretary of Public Welfare launches initiative to reduce mental health prejudice

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Harrisburg – The Department of Public Welfare  launched a broad, long-term initiative Friday called “Mental Health Matters” to help reduce the stigma and prejudice associated with mental illness that often prevents people from reaching out for help.

Acting Secretary of Public Welfare Beverly Mackereth launched the initiative during an event at the headquarters for the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in Harrisburg. She was joined by county providers, advocates and individuals supporting mental health awareness.

The initial phase of the Mental Health Matters campaign will consist of efforts to raise awareness, as well as support for other initiatives, including:

Additional mental health first aid training: Expand current training to quickly identify a mental disorder by equipping non-professionals such as librarians or soup kitchen volunteers with the means to help. This training is already provided to many police, medics and school counselors.

Families as first responders:  Empower families with the knowledge to identify the early signs of mental illness and what to do before a crisis occurs, as families are on the front lines of mental health awareness. A free resource and training guide will be made available to interested families.

Reducing suicides among veterans: Pennsylvania has the second highest suicide rate for veterans. A collaborative public-private effort is underway to address the psychological needs of our veterans returning from war. The collaboration includes the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Deputy Adjutant General; State Office of Veteran’s Affairs, Lebanon Veterans Hospital, National Guard, Army One Source, and the Pennsylvania Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs.

Individuals experiencing a mental health crisis can call their local county Crisis Hotline or the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or text “Talk With Us” to 66746. The TTY for Deaf/Hearing Impaired is 1-800-846-8517.
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