Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley recently came across some rather eye-opening statistics.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is estimated that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (57.8 million in 2021). Mental illnesses include many different conditions that vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also reported that more than 29.5 million people in the United States had an alcohol use disorder in 2021 and that globally alcohol misuse is the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death and disability.
Hitting closer to home, the East-Central District Health Department on May 9th reported that in the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (2021), it was found that:
- 22% of adults in the East-Central District (Platte, Nance, Boone and Colfax counties) reported binge drinking in the past 30 days.
Additionally, the most recent Nebraska Risk and Protective Factor Student Survey (2021) found that:
- 62.7% of district 10th graders reported using alcohol (as opposed to 42.6% state average)
-13.3% of district 10th graders reported current binge drinking (opposed to 6.3% state average)
- More than 16% of district eighth and 10th graders have considered suicide in the past year
- 4.6% of district eighth graders have attempted suicide in the past 12 months
In light of all these statistics, Bulkley on May 1st during the regular Columbus City Council meeting signed a proclamation declaring May-7th-13th, 2023, as “National Prevention Week” in Columbus. It coincides with National Prevention Week, a national public education platform by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to showcase the work of communities and organizations across the country dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of substance misuse prevention and positive mental health.
“I call upon our community to join us this week in celebrating the compelling programs and events that support increasing awareness of, and action around, mental health and substance use disorders year-round,” Bulkley said.
The request for the proclamation came from East-Central District Health Department Project Coordinator Karmen VanDeWalle, who noted her appreciation to the mayor and the City of Columbus for helping shed a spotlight on the growing issue.
“I am very glad he did it,” VanDeWalle said. “It shows that he’s committed to not only the response to substance abuse but also preventive measures. That’s important because that really is long-term how we’re going to address substance abuse and the opioid crisis.”
She said substance abuse goes hand in hand with mental health. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a treatable mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications.
“Most substance abuse is coping for pain, especially emotional pain caused by mental health issues,” she said.
VanDeWalle said East-Central and several community entities, such as Columbus Community Hospital and the Columbus Area United Way, continue to try and develop proactive solutions to help those in need. Mental health and substance use issues exist locally, but the mayor’s proclamation is another way to hopefully bring more awareness to it.
“They absolutely affect Columbus,” VanDeWalle said. “The mental health of our community has been declining and so East-Central District Health Department and several other community partners have all come together and are working toward a collaborative approach to the improvement of the mental health of Columbus and the surrounding area.”
VanDeWalle encouraged community members to check out the “How Are You Really” campaign materials on the nonprofit's website for mental health screening tools, resource information and additional tools for individuals, youth and families.
For the last 20 years, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration has recognized Mental Health Awareness Month every May to increase awareness about the vital role mental health plays in our overall health and well-being.