Harsha fights stigma of mental health treatment

As the school year approaches, students and parents are likely anxious about many unknowns.  Added to the annual stressors of new classes, new teachers and new schoolrooms, this year will be thoughts about potential COVID-19 exposure.

Harsha Behavioral Center in Terre Haute says its new Heart of Harsha Campaign can be a source of information and encouragement for families facing anxiety in the current climate of pandemic.

“There's always a lot of anticipatory anxiety when starting school,” said Dr. Darla Hinshaw, a child psychiatrist at Harsha. “Sometimes there are things you just have to accept and go along with, even though you may not like it. So trying to teach those type of coping skills is very helpful.”

Studies show about one in five adults and one in five children ages six to 17 have experienced mental health issues, Hinshaw said.

Mental illness often goes untreated because of stigma and people not recognizing that treatment is available, she said.

Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people age 10 to 34. Indiana ranks third of 36 states in the percentage of school-age children who seriously consider attempting suicide, according to the Indiana Youth Institute.

“Now more than ever, being able to provide care to those who experience mental health challenges is vital,” said Roopam Harshawat, CEO of Harsha Behavioral Center. “The Heart of Harsha initiative was created to combat negative stigma surrounding mental health and to educate community about the statistics.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety among the public, Hinshaw said. Adding that anxiety to someone who has an underlying mental illness can be disastrous.

Hinshaw said she believes the pandemic will result in many people having post-traumatic stress disorder, especially for healthcare and emergency workers dealing with the illness.

While family dysfunction or genetic predisposition can be contributors to mental illness, families and individuals without those factors can also experience mental health issues.

“Tragedy can strike anyone at any time,” Hinshaw said. “Just because family is dysfunctional does not make up the entirety of mental health anxiety. We treat children who suffered a loss" as well as children anxious about school or everyday things who do not have the tools to cope with daily stressors.

Harshawat said a goal of the Heart of Harsha campaign is to show the faces of mental health and let the public know treatment is available.

Harsha Behavioral Center is a freestanding acute care hospital on Terre Haute's south side. It has has 81 beds to provide inpatient services to individuals needing 24-hour intensive psychiatric care and serves patients of all ages -- from children as young as three to geriatric patients.

The Heart of Harsha campaign can be found at www.harshacenter.com and on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.

Lisa Trigg has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star since 2009. With more than 30 years of newspaper experience, she now covers general news with a focus on crime and courts.

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