Problems in Utah regarding drug abuse, addiction and mental illness affect thousands more people than most residents realize.
Local organizations, including United Way, LDS Family Services and The Comprehensive Clinic at BYU, supported the 5th Annual Mental Health Services Awareness Night. Speakers included Elder Merrill J. Bateman, an emeritus seventy and former president of BYU, and Mark Shurtleff, former Attorney General for the state of Utah. Several local organizations provided information to attendees.
Bateman said that in the 2000 Census, 42,000 children were being cared for by relatives in the state of Utah. Ninety percent of those children’s parents could not or would not take care of them because of issues related to drugs. In 2006, he speculated that the number of children being taken care of by relatives, other than parents, would only increase.
“We never really knew until the 2010 Census came. Any idea what that number was three years ago? Eighty-three thousand,” Bateman said.
In addition to sharing stories of drug abuse and the effect it has on children, he also referenced the landmark importance of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk about mental illness in the October 2013 General Conference.
“He’s opened the door for us to become more sensitive to those who need help. He’s opened the door for us to reach out and use community resources,” Bateman said.
Shurtleff then spoke about the importance of recognizing the reality of mental illness.
“We have to talk about depression and suicide. It must not be, and cannot be, a taboo topic,” Shurtleff said.
Attendees were also able to investigate dozens of booths provided by local healthcare providers.
Seth Hawkins, a web and social media consultant for Intermountain Healthcare, demonstrated the use of a new website that consolidates local healthcare services’ information into one location. He also mentioned the site functions like an app when opened in a web browser on a mobile device.
“Quickly I see the information I need. I get an address, I get a phone number, I can quickly go to their website, and I can also view a map,” Hawkins said while demonstrating. “I hope you find it useful in that you can use it to benefit the people that you serve.”
The website includes information for Utah Valley residents to local services for abuse and neglect, eating disorders, mental health, pregnancy, senior citizens, suicide prevention and many others.
Jolysa Sedgwick, a senior at BYU studying anthropology, attended the event because a friend invited her.
“I thought that what they were presenting, the plea for recognition and the plea for everyone to work together in helping those with mental illness, was very effective and insightful,” Sedgwick said.