Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mental Health Help is at Hand

Mental health help is at hand

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By MICHELLE BEARDEN | The Tampa Tribune

Published: June 27, 2009

What happened to Mike Hailey could happen to anyone, says Scott Barnett, executive director of Mental Health America of Greater Tampa Bay.

Untreated depression can lead to substance abuse, alienation from family and friends, poor decisions, physical problems and suicide.

"If you're running a high fever, you'd seek medical help," he says. "It works the same way with mental health. You need to treat it before it gets worse."

That can range from talk therapy to medications, Barnett says. But the important thing is not to ignore the symptoms. Anyone suffering from severe depression without a specific cause, such as a death of a loved one, needs to seek professional help.

"Too often people think it's a character flaw to ask for help," he says.

Barnett, who manages his depression through prescription medication, offers these tips:

If the way you are feeling is not normal for you, then something not normal is probably happening.

You have a right to feel better. Pursue your rights.

Find a person you can be open with. Dial 211 for help reaching crisis centers in Tampa and St. Petersburg or go to www.mhagreatertampabay
.org for information.

More than 20 percent of Americans will have mental health problems in their lifetime. You are not alone.

"My own experience is that when I make it known I have clinical depression, I usually make at least one new friend," Barnett says. "So, it is well worth it."

Hailey is sharing his story to groups in the hope of helping others. To contact him or to learn more about New Day Church, call (813) 681-8239 or go to

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