By CHRIS AGEE
Mental illness has received increased attention in recent months, especially following a number of recent mass shootings.
President Barack Obama recently addressed the issue during the National Conference on Mental Health in Washington, D.C., laying out his plan to raise awareness.
Texas legislators have been active in addressing mental health in recent months, too. State senators proposed spending about $226 million on treatment, prevention, and education during a two-year period.
Additionally, a measure recently passed the State Legislature that would allow teachers, after receiving appropriate training, to identify signs of mental illness in students.
Locally, medical professionals deal with a litany of mental health issues, many of which manifest themselves early in life.
“Mental health comes in lots of forms and shapes,” said Palo Pinto General Hospital Chief of Staff and Emergency-Room Medical Director Dr. John Jones.
He said certain mental illnesses can present a significant danger and urges individuals to be aware of early warning signs.
“In terms of depression, specifically, warning signs in children are just a change in demeanor, a loss of interest in activities that otherwise they’d be interest in, a decrease in activity and a change in sleep or appetite patterns,” he said.
If left untreated, those symptoms can lead to more severe issues.
“Later signs would be withdrawing from family, from friends, and becoming reclusive,” Jones said.
Certain other mental issues – Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, for example – are also classified as mental health issues affecting youth.
While these disorders are “probably more common,” Jones said “depression would be more dangerous” and would “put you at risk for suicide and things of that nature.”
Mental illness affects all communities and Jones said Mineral Wells faces its own unique challenges.
“If we’re focusing solely on children, it would be hard to say it is more prevalent than anywhere else,” he explained. “Anecdotally, I think our community has a higher incident across the spectrum of mental health issues whether it be depression or bipolar disorder.”