By Ryan Dillon
Despite the fact that it has a profound impact on our communities, mental health is an issue that does not receive the attention or resources it deserves, especially in rural areas like Missouri’s 16th Senatorial District. More likely than not, each and every one of us knows someone that faces the challenges associated with mental health on a daily basis. I myself have a cousin that was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Over the years, my family and I have witnessed his struggles and celebrated his successes. We have watched as his emotional, psychological, and social well-being were affected.
One of the many great things about rural communities is the strong sense to come together and offer support that is often difficult to find elsewhere. However, when it comes to mental health, our communities are also vulnerable. We do not have the accessibility to adequate healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals that is necessary for addressing mental health – Missouri ranks 40th in the nation in terms of access to care. If they have the ability to do so, mental health patients often have to travel great distances in order to access the same resources that those in urban areas can simply drive down the street to obtain. Beyond access to treatments, it is critical to combat existing stigmas associated with mental health conditions.
As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, the conversation must continue, and we must come together to address the challenges facing those living with a mental health condition. In the Missouri State Senate, I will work across party lines to ensure that our communities have access to care and the necessary resources that are critical to addressing mental health conditions. Additionally, I would support increased investments in mental health research and increased investments in educational programs that help erase the stigma associated with mental health conditions. Finally, we must work to create an environment that is open and accepting of those who need our help, particularly the 51,000 Missouri youth who suffer from severe depression. Together, we must lend a helping hand to those affected by a mental health condition in order to build people up, strengthen our communities, and make Missouri a better place to live and work.
Ryan Dillon is a candidate for Missouri’s 16th Senatorial District in 2018.