May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (EOCCO) and its partner, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc., (GOBHI), are honored to join our providers throughout Eastern Oregon and beyond in raising awareness and bringing understanding to the significant role that mental health has on one’s overall health and wellbeing.

May is an important month for observations recognizing community-serving initiatives. Since 1949, United States communities have observed Mental Health Awareness Month.

We honor this month to recognize the importance of mental health and wellness in our communities. One in five adults in America experience a mental illness. Nearly one in 25 adults live with a serious mental illness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasized the importance of mental health in daily life. It is normal to feel anxiety and fear during this pandemic. Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Consider these stress management tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Pause. Breathe. Notice how you feel.

Take breaks from COVID-19 news and information.

Make time to sleep and exercise.

Reach out and stay connected.

Seek help if feeling overwhelmed or feeling unsafe.

If you are in an immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Lines for Life provides free, 24-hour crisis lines for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis including suicidal thoughts and lines for individuals or family members concerned about substance use. You can find more information at www.linesforlife.org.

If you need help for an urgent but not immediate matter, consider calling the David Romprey Warm Line, 1-800-698-2392.

Community Mental Health Programs offer an array of behavioral health and support services in each Oregon county. These providers have 24/7 crisis lines and mobile crisis response teams; Eastern Oregon numbers are listed at www.eocco.com/members/crisis-help.

Another helpful resource is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a public education program that introduces participants from all walks of life to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews appropriate supports. A map of available instructors and courses is posted at mhfaoregon.org.

EOCCO and GOBHI are committed to rural and frontier healthcare; this mission is more important than ever during times of crisis.

We encourage you to assist us in sharing the important message of Mental Health Month with your friends, families and neighbors — during May and in the months ahead.

Karen Wheeler is the Chief Executive Officer of Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc. Sean Jessup, CEO of Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization, also contributed to this article.

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