State of Nebraska

BOARD OF PAROLE

Mental Health Awareness Article

Mental Health Awareness Month

Understanding the impact of mental health within our community, as well as individuals involved in post-supervision and parole is important.  How mental health is treated and viewed has changed dramatically over the past decade or so.  This is evident by the increased dialogue pertaining to mental health, recent advancements in psychotropic medications, as well as the shift from institutionalized care to an increase in community based services.  With the additional and continued studies of mood and personality disorders, society has acquired a greater awareness of some of the diagnoses that have existed for quite a while.

The more we increase our awareness of what the “presentation” of a mood disorder, or personality disorder looks like, we increase our ability to interact with someone, and decrease the potential for escalation during that encounter.  For example, gaining a greater understanding of the symptomology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), can empower someone with additional options when attempting to de-escalate, or grounding an individual during a triggered flashback.  These are important insights to possess, as they allows us an opportunity to foster the best possible outcome available to us.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental illnesses are common in the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year. Estimates suggest that only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment.  The Washington Post also published an article stating “American prisons and jails housed an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness in 2012.”  These were inmates that at some point were or will be released, either because of a mandatory release date or a parole eligibility date.  This number is not representative of the state of Nebraska, but puts the overall number into a national context. 

The more we improve our understanding of mental health disorders, the better prepared we can be when working with some parolees. Additionally, we may encounter people beyond our employment settings that are balancing the challenges associated with a mental health diagnosis.  More understanding opens the door for more empathy, which can go a long way when establishing trust and rapport with people.

By

David E. Carter PLADC, BSW