By: Kyle Hudson
WASHINGTON – Have you ever felt sad or removed from your friends or loved ones? Do you find yourself constantly relying on the use of drugs and alcohol? Have you ever had thoughts of suicide or self -harm? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may be suffering from mental illness, a problem that affects more people than you think.
This week’s 5C Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meeting featured presentations ranging from topics surrounding the neighborhood’s newest fast-food chain restaurant to the protest of the Bliss Nightclub rooftop deck. However, the biggest focus of Wednesday night’s ANC meeting was the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) presentation on mental illness prevention and protection in the D.C. community.
Travis Dread-Hughes, the Community Outreach Coordinator for the DBH, provided the constituents of ANC 5C with information regarding services and programs to treat depression, anger, grief, stress, anxiety, and substance abuse. In addition to the providing information, Dread-Hughes also stressed the importance of addressing and dispelling the negative connotations that are associated with these illnesses.
“Basically we’re coming out to remove the stigma because usually when mental illness is brought up in our community the person or persons with said illness is shunned,” said Dread-Hughes.
According to a survey done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 5,000 adolescents per year in 2009-2013 reported using illicit drugs in the District of Columbia. Additionally, 18.1 percent of adolescents in D.C. ages 12-20 reported binge alcohol use in 2012-2013 which was higher than the national percentage of 14.7 percent. These statistics have raised many concerns in the community.
“I took a shortcut today through Ivy City and witnessed a drug deal and that raised concerns for me. I’m really fearful that this epidemic will take more lives of our youth and our men…I’ve seen people outside in the snow, the cold, and extreme heat just to get high,” said Alice Walker, a member of the Ward 5 community. “I want the youth and everyone else to know that this help is being offered without asking for anything in return other than you getting better,” she says.
Community involvement was one of the recurring themes of Wednesday’s meeting and the conversation of helping those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse grasped the attention of many of the constituents. LaMonica Jeffery, representative of ANC Single Member District 5C06, admired the audiences drive to help and encourages members of the community to continue with the same enthusiasm with all issues that face the city.
“People should attend the community meetings not just when situations arise, but to prevent situations in the community. It is important that we constantly know what’s going on instead of just focusing on the aftermath. Our biggest problem as a community is that we’re not educated on all aspects of our city and communities.”
To find out more information on behavioral health and mental and substance abuse issues you can visit the Department of Behavioral Health homepage.