DANVILLE — For the first time, Mental Health Awareness Week was officially designated and recognized by the City of Danville. This was accomplished in-part by the community group Step-Up, which focuses on mental health, drug prevention and family parenting.

According to Vermilion County Coroner Jane McFadden, there were eight suicides in Vermilion County last year, and there already have been four in 2018.

One of Step-Up’s mental health initiatives is to raise awareness to better understand the needs of Vermilion County residents. Its members worked with other community leaders to make Mental Health week a reality.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Mayor Scott Eisenhauer declared aldermen had previously voted and approved to recognize the week of May 14 as Mental Health Awareness Week, noting Assistant Mayor Brenda Brown and Alderman Sherry Pickering were “instrumental in spearheading” these efforts.

Jim Russell of the Vermilion County Mental Health Board also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting to help raise information and statistics about mental health-related issues in the area.

In an interview, Russell said he hopes the week will educate community members about mental illnesses and local services available.

He said CrossPoint Human Services is an outpatient counseling program, additionally Rosecrance and New Directions both provide substance abuse counseling.

One of Step-Up’s goals is to help increase the presence of mental health counselors in schools — a goal Russell shares.

“If you talk to any school staff, our kids are coming to school with a lot more baggage than they were before,” Russell said. “One of my dreams is to have a mental health professional in every district; ideally we would have one in every building.”

A grant awarded through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will be used for youth mental health training.

The training is taking place this week for those who work with or have contact with 13- to 18-year-olds specifically.

Adults in the area also have a need for mental health treatment.

Russell said roughly one-third of people admitted to the Public Safety Building are on medication for mental illnesses.

“We want to reduce stigma regarding mental illness,” Russell said. “People who are suffering can get help.”