Good Sunday morning, everyone! October is upon us this week and there is a lot about October and the beginning of fall that we can all love. Although the topic for today isn’t as pretty and popular, it is truly needed.

October is National Mental Illness Awareness month and during a Step Up meeting we were handed a tool kit to use during October to help bring this awareness to the public. One of the first pieces I read was on the Campaign to Change Direction.

Chris Stapleton, a Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter and one of my new favorites to listen to, has a song out called "Fire Away." If you get a chance look up the video you will understand the song a little better.

It may be hard for some to watch if you have ever had someone you love commit suicide, but it also shows that human side of all of us. When someone or something is hurting a loved one, we do what we can to help or save them, in this case, like so many we hear or read about, saving them from themselves.

The Campaign to Change Direction states that America is at a crossroads when it comes to how our society addresses mental health. We know that one in five of our citizens has a diagnosable mental health condition, and that more Americans are expected to die this year by suicide than in car accidents. This campaign is a national initiative to change the culture of mental health in America, encouraging Americans to care for their mental well-being just as they do their physical well-being.

So, this Change Direction initiative addresses common barriers to understanding mental health and raises awareness about Five Signs that may indicate someone is suffering emotionally and needs help. You can see more about the Five Signs at www.changedirections.org.

1. Personality changes. You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves.

2. Uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated or moody. You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling his or her temper and seems irritable, anxious or unable to calm down.

3. Withdrawal or isolation from other people. Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities that used to be enjoyable.

4. May neglect self-care and engage in risky behavior. You may notice a change in the person’s level of personal care or an act of poor judgment.

5. Overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstances. Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful about? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

Our mental health must be a priority. Please know that you do matter and it’s okay to ask for help. You can call my office or the PATH Crisis 2-1-1 line if you need to talk.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.

Sherri M. Askren is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone: 442-3512

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