WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – May is Mental Health Awareness Month. A topic that is very close to the heart of Wichitan David Larson.
“If you don’t talk about them, you never get better.”
Larson has spent years battling with his own mental health.
“My wife passed away in 2006 that sent me into a downward spiral of grief. That grief developed into depression and in 2008 I was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts,” he reflected.
Larson tried therapy, medicines, but ended up in the hospital again after attempting suicide in 2015. When he was released, he lived with a family who helped him find support through NAMI.
“I went to first a support group, and then, I went to an education meeting. One thing turned to another and pretty soon I was attending NAMI all the time,” he said. “NAMI has been a lifesaver for me.”
The pandemic brought mental health challenges for many. However, Sedwick County COMCARE Crisis Center noticed a decrease in calls in 2020.
Shantel Westbrook, director of Rehab Services for COMCARE, said while the volume was down the severity of some cases went up.
“Youth in Sedgwick County, the hospitalization rate for mental health issues has been way up almost 25% up.”
Westbrook said the pandemic has shined a light on mental health and helped to reduce the stigma.
“It’s like we’re all struggling so we all need to kind of connect with each other and reach out a little bit more. Do things differently to make sure our mental health is in check,” she said.
COMCARE’s Crisis Center has been seeing an increase in calls recently. Westbrook says it’s more than 100 calls a day, a significant increase from this time last year. She says this is a good sign.
Moving forward, Westbrook hopes the community will keep mental health a priority by staying aware.
“Do our self-check-ins to kind of see how am I doing? What do I need today? Who have I connected with? Who do I know that I need to try to reach out to? Making sure that I’m getting enough sleep. That I’m aware of what my own needs are,” she said.
“You’ve got to talk about it, you’ve got to be willing to say, ‘Hey, look, I’m not doing so well,” Larson said.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact Comcare 24 hours a day at 316-660-7500 or at sedgwickcounty.org/comcare.