by Michael Del Trecco, Interim President and CEO, VAHHS Today is World Mental Health Day and I hope you all will join me in acknowledging the challenges we face here in Vermont and across the globe to increase awareness, reduce barriers and normalize treatment. I also hope you will act. For far too many Vermonters, stigma is an impenetrable wall that prevents us from realizing we are not well—it keeps us from seeking help, and it leads to incredible suffering.
We gathered this past week for our first in-person Annual Meeting in three years. I couldn’t know it in advance, but the experience being together again with colleagues, friends and people I admire and respect in our field was a significant emotional boost for me. We tackled weighty issues including mental health—in particular challenges for health care workers, who have experienced heightened stress, increased violence and trauma brought on or made worse by COVID-19.
As we listened to one speaker, Dr. Cath Burns, help us understand the gravity of the challenge between the need for mental health care among our health care providers and the very low percentage of those getting the help they need, it was overwhelming. (We’ll have more about Dr. Burns’ presentation in future editions of VAHHS Update. See a clip here.)
But those of us who work in health care are wired to look for the opportunity to step in and take action to reverse this trend. So, it occurred to me that each of us has a role to play—even those of you reading who do not work in health care—and now, truly more than any other time in our lives, we need to step up.
We need to be crystal clear with ourselves, our families and friends that mental health care is as much a part of our routine care as a colonoscopy or annual physical.
Here are several things you can do to make positive change:
- Take care of your own mental health. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all.
- Talk openly about mental health and help others do the same.
- Know the signs of suicidal behavior and, when necessary, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988 or reach out to the confidential crisis text line by texting VT to 741741.
- Learn more about World Mental Health Day and share on social media.
For my part, I’ll be having a family conversation about mental health and making sure we all know our home is a safe space and help is available if needed. And at VAHHS, we will be sharing information on social media to increase awareness. All of these small acts make a very big difference. We are fortunate to live in a place like Vermont where we can actually feel the collective impact.
Thank you and have a great week.