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Encouraging Mississippians to ‘Think Again’ About Mental Illness

May 17, 2018 | By Arielle Dreher

It was a blistering morning, but people from state government, nonprofit and advocacy organizations gathered at the Capitol to launch a public-health campaign, encouraging Mississippians to “think again” about their mental health on Tuesday, May 15.

Diana Mikula, the executive director of the Department of Mental Health, said the “Think Again” campaign is intended to encourage Mississippians to think about their physical and mental health together—and ask for help when they need it. DMH plans to provide community organizations, local hospitals and businesses with information to increase awareness about physical and mental health.

“It’s bringing more people to the table. We can’t do it in silos, and one agency can’t do it alone,” Mikula said on May 15.

Mary Currier, the state health officer, also spoke at the Capitol this week. She emphasized that mental and physical health actually impact the other.

“High stress levels are linked to common health issues like high blood pressure…,” she said. “… People who are depressed or chronically stressed have a greater risk of illness.”

Currier said it is important to eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise, not just for physical health but also for mental-health benefits. Mikula hopes that the outreach campaign will encourage Mississippians to talk to their health-care providers about mental health. She said some doctors have mental-health screeners at their offices in the state. Otherwise, there are 14 community mental-health centers statewide.

The federal government sued Mississippi in 2016 for its over-reliance on institutionalization to treat mental-health problems statewide. That case is still in discovery. DMH has been in financial hot water at the Legislature in past years as a result—until 2018. The department seemed to shift course and did not ask for an increase in funding in the most recent legislative session. DMH received the same amount of funding that it did last year, as a result.

Mikula acknowledged that the state agencies are maximizing their state funds with DMH and the Department of Health partnering on the “Think Again” initiative.

“Our leadership needs to know that our agencies are working together and we do try to utilize the resources we have before we come asking for more,” Mikula told reporters May 15.

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