Carl L. Crumbacker Sr. 11:23 p.m. EDT August 24, 2014

Believe it or not, stress can be a good thing. Some stress keeps us alert to danger and aware of our daily surroundings.

Good stress, or eustress, can be a motivator. Used appropriately, it can lead to improved performance and an increase in our “happy hormone,” serotonin.

Dis-stress, or bad stress, is when we become overwhelmed, leading to certain mental health concerns.

The topic of mental health is getting a lot of attention these days in light of the many tragedies taking place across the United States. In particular, severe mental illness has impacted the entire community we live in, especially our public service agencies.

Police, corrections, our health departments and hospitals spend a large portion of their day interacting with the mentally ill. Substance abuse disorders, which are on the rise, may lead to a mental disorder.

Many of the mentally ill find their way into jails and prisons, which are not intended to serve as mental health treatment facilities.

Substance abuse disorders and mental disorders are diagnosable and treatable in an appropriate environment with appropriate resources. So why do we have the problem to begin with?

Our nation lost balance and focus with regard to mental health treatment. Yes, many health care organizations developed stress management programs and employers have instituted employee assistance programs, but our mental health treatment facilities closed or changed focus.

According to mental health experts, approximately 19 percent of the U.S. population suffers from an anxiety disorder. The military has been overwhelmed with suicides; many young people are distressed, confused and prone to substance use for relief.

There is some good news. The Criminal justice Academy at Wor-Wic Community College has partnered with police, corrections and health departments on Delmarva to provide ongoing training in mental health response. New instructors were trained to provide mental health first aid training to agencies and the community.

Crisis intervention teams are being trained to respond to a mental health crisis. Our legislatures are also working to increase funding sources for treatment and education. Military veterans and their families are beginning to receive mental health first aid training.

Post-traumatic stress disorder has been in the news a lot, especially with regard to our military.

Many times the symptoms of PTSD do not impact someone until many years after the traumatic event. Sadly, many turn to substances for relief of the mental anguish; some turn to suicide. Recognizing the signs and symptoms is essential.

Knowing how to respond to someone experiencing a crisis is also important. Veterans may call 1-800-273-8255, and press 1. The Maryland Crisis Hotline is 1-800-422-0009. Call 911 in an emergency. For additional information, visit mentalhealthfirstaid.org or contact your local health department or hospital.

Carl L. Crumbacker Sr. is a retired law enforcement executive and criminal justice instructor at Wor-Wic Community College.

RESOURCES

• Mentalhealthfirstaid.org

• Public health departments

• Hospitals

Crisis hotlines

Veterans: 1-800-273-8255, press 1

Maryland Crisis Hotline: 1-800-422-0009; emergency 911

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