May is Mental Health Awareness Month across the country. It is an opportunity to become aware of the mental health struggles prevalent in the community, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, self-harm and more.
Mental illnesses can be especially painful for those experiencing it, because they are often hidden illness, with few to no physical markers, and illnesses that are not openly discussed due to stigma. In fact, stigma is frequently seen as the biggest barrier to mental health care.
There is inadequate understanding around what causes mental illnesses and how they can be helped. Mental health challenges can arise from genetic and biological factors or from life events, such as trauma, abuse or family violence.
Untreated mental health issues and unaddressed trauma can lead to more struggles, including substance use/abuse, unmanageable behavior or even suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Plumas Rural Services provides services and resources to support those who have experienced traumatic life events, including domestic violence services (counseling, support shelter, etc.) and the child abuse treatment program (free licensed therapy for child victims of abuse, neglect, and bullying).
In a greater context, mental health must be seen as not only addressing diagnosable mental illnesses, but promoting positive mental health as well. Life events can take their toll on mental well-being in ways that may or may not rise to the level of clinical diagnosis, but which can be managed in ways that improve quality of life. These may include issues such as co-parenting with high conflict, divorced parents; managing anger; conflict resolution; dealing with daily stress; and more.
Heather Caiazzo, PRS’ clinical manager, wants to help those struggling with mental health concerns to break through the barriers of stigma and shame.
“As a survivor of depression, I know firsthand there’s a lot of shame around it. I struggled many years in silence; bringing it out in the open and finding help and treatment saved my life,” she said.
A major challenge with mental illness, she added, is that it is treated differently than other illnesses and conditions people experience.
“Sufferers show no visible symptoms, no runny nose, no fever or rash, no fractures or sprains; just a lifetime of thoughts, reactions, and behaviors they are unable to describe or explain to those who haven’t experienced it,” Caiazzo noted. People don’t feel shame about other illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, broken bones, allergies, etc., that require help to overcome.
Mention mental illness, though, and people become uncomfortable. Caiazzo and the team of mental health professionals at PRS aim to get society to view mental illness like any other illness people experience — without shame, in the open, and with hope for healing and survival.
PRS has provided licensed mental health services in Plumas County since 2001. The agency’s therapy staff has grown to six providers:
– Heather Caiazzo, LMFT;
– Dr. Adrianne Bliss-Williams, PsyD, LMFT, LAADC, Psychological Assistant;
– Marjorie “Midge” Gannon, LMFT;
– Jenna Artaz, LMFT;
– Beth Grant, MFTI; and
– Breanna Black, ASW.
In July, PRS will add two psychologists to its staff with Ph.D. qualifications and the capability to conduct psychological evaluations.
PRS’ Mental Health Services accepts both private payment and a variety of insurance plans.
Therapy modalities offered include individual therapy, family therapy, couples therapy, parent child interaction therapy) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Our mental health staff works with children, teens and adults. In addition to professional therapy staff, PRS has staff trained in advanced trauma recovery, mindfulness, anger management, suicide prevention, and more.
In addition to effective treatment, PRS is committed to furthering efforts for awareness, education and professional training in Plumas County around the issue of mental health.
Specific trainings PRS’ Community Training Manager Dana Nowling currently offers include: Mental Health First Aid, safeTALK and ASIST. These are designed to help community members identify when someone is struggling with mental health issues and/or contemplating suicide, as well as equipping them with strategies to intervene in crisis and provide effective referrals to qualified professionals.
PRS also offers training in the area of anger management and conflict resolution, mindfulness and other topics supportive of good mental health.
For more information about PRS and its mental health services, call 283-2735 or visit PlumasRuralServices.org.