Father's story illustrates need for San Augustine seminar on mental health first aid

Father's story illustrates need for San Augustine seminar on mental health first aid
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - The father of the woman arrested in Nacogdoches County on Tuesday for harboring a juvenile said his daughter has fought mental illness and substance abuse for years.

It's a combination individuals learned about Wednesday in San Augustine. East Texas News found a parallel between a father's experience and the mental health education going on around the country.

Russell Carleton said Wednesday that he knows from experience how bi-polar issues and substance abuse can be a volatile combination. The retired trucker said he experienced it through his daughter's issues.

"The drug problem just makes your mental issues worse," Carleton said. They tend to get any type of drugs they can. It just gets worse and worse."

What if a bad situation could be prevented or stopped if more people were equipped with mental health first aid?

"They may not be able to verbalize what they're going through," said Mae Frances Rowlett, a program coordinator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "What they're feeling and so all they know is to act out."

Individuals in San Augustine, most of whom have no formal mental health training, are learning how to assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

"Think about it based on concern and care," Rowlett said. "I think that more than anything will get them through."

Think of it as a first-aid tip from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The federal agency is training instructors nationwide to conduct courses to save lives, just as CPR classes teach how to help people in physical distress.

San Augustine Judge Samye Johnson invited SAMHSA Regional Administrator Michael Duffy to San Augustine County to share his message.

"You can't talk about health in this country unless you address mental health and substance abuse disorders and, in fact, they are essential to health," Duffy said.

People from all walks of life are learning risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns. They are given strategies to ease a person in mental distress. And most importantly, they learn where to turn for help. Carleton knows the challenges.

"Mental health care, in at least East Texas, is limited unless you have good insurance," Carleton said. They won't turn you away, but you won't get the level you need."

Duffy is aware of similar observations across his five-state region. He said mandated reimbursements by The Affordable Care Act's health care reforms are addressing the concerns.

"A significant measure that identified both mental illness and substance abuse disorder as essential health benefits," Duffy said.

It wasn't soon enough for Carleton. All hope for his daughter's recovery is just about gone.

Behavioral Health advocates continue to provide the encouragement.

"Individuals who have both mental health and substance abuse disorders can and do recover," Duffy said.

It's predicted that by 2020 behavioral health will be the leading cause of disability worldwide.

You can find out more about Mental Health First Aid at its Website.

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