Efforts yield Governor's Mental Health Month proclamation signature.
A Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System Social Worker and longtime mental health care advocate recently witnessed the signing of Arkansas’ proclamation of May as Mental Health Awareness Month by Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Lisa Southerland, CAVHS Residential PTSD Unit social worker, spearheaded the proclamation project galvanized by the challenges of living through the lockdowns, physical and social distancing, and emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Living the last year in the pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health care for me,” she said. “From the fear of the virus, to the collective and personal experiences of grief and loss -- from not only losing people we care about, but also losing our sense of what is normal and safe -- has really taken a toll on most people I know.”
Southerland wanted to do something to bring awareness to mental health care in our state, and let people know they are not alone, that most people have struggled over the past year and that help is available.
‘It's important to educate people around mental health and destigmatize mental health care so people don’t feel embarrassment or shame about coming forward when they need help,” she said. “By talking about mental health in compassionate, destigmatizing ways, we normalize it and open up the dialogue for people to reach out when they need it instead of suffering alone.”
Since 2011, Southerland has been a caretaker of a social media group for Arkansas therapists to stay connected, support each other and share resources to reduce barriers and improve the quality of mental health care. The group has grown to 4,000 therapists and mental health providers from all around the mid-South.
“Lisa has been a valuable resource in my career as a social worker and clinician,” said Elizabeth Deere, CAVHS Day Treatment Center social worker. “She has provided countless hours of consultation for working with children and families to other Social Workers and clinicians over the years.
“Lisa embodies this type of group as a person and as a professional in a line of work that can be stressful and tedious,” Deere said.
The link to the Arkansas Mental Health Awareness Month Proclamation is: https://governor.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/proclamations/Mental_Health_Awareness_Month_in_Arkansas_%28May_2021%29.pdf.