BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Health leaders say one in four people in the world will be affected by mental health problems at some point in their lives. Most of the diagnoses are made later than they should be. Adults in Barnwell County are working toward learning more about the signs and symptoms of mental health. “I’ve seen children and adults that are going through mental health issues and alcohol drug issues. They’re suicidal and nobody’s paying attention to them and they’re asking for help one way or another,” Cheryl Azouri Long told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk about the issue. “I’m here to make sure that we do whatever we need to do for the children,” she added.

Long is a retired director at Axis I Center of Barnwell. The agency is Barnwell County’s only provider of substance abuse treatment and prevention services. She is one of the dozens of community leaders working to identify signs and symptoms — and what to do and what to say when people are in a crisis. Because of COVID-19, law enforcement says they have seen an increase in mental health crises, including anxiety. “We have a large problem with mental health, and I think it’s a nationwide problem to solve,” Barnwell County First Sgt. Eric Kirkland shared.

Statistics show in the United States, only 41% of the people who had a mental disorder in the past year received professional health care. Each year, one out of every ten youths will be severely impacted by anxiety.

Because professional and other support services are not always available when a mental health problem shows up, Jean Ann Lambert of Mental Health America of S.C. says that there are several ways you can help when dealing with those issuing including following an action plan called ALGEE. You can use the outline in any problem situation.

  • Assess risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgementally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Lambert added that the most significant things to look for are behavior changes, withdrawals, and teens isolating themselves. “If those are going on, then it needs to be addressed. There’s something that needs to be done, whether it’s getting them to see a counselor, their primary doctor, possibly the mental health center, but doing some kind of intervention and doing it early because it doesn’t go away, it gets worse.”

According to the Amerian Psychiatric Association, there is a stigma associated with mental health problems. That could lead people to hide their problems and delay getting help. “We have a lot of people that come in with depression and anxiety and part of depression and anxiety has to do with suicide,” Amber Still with Celebrate Recovery of Barnwell County said. “A lot of them tend to turn to suicide and it breaks my heart when I hear this and just don’t know which way to turn, what to do to help ’em,” Still added.

Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered recovery program. For Still, the training was invaluable. “The biggest takeaway is being able to approach the people and just knowing that being there to be that hope. The biggest thing is to try and encourage them to get the help they need,” she added. “We want issues like mental health to be at the forefront of our agency so we can get more training and equip those to help handle those that are in crisis,” First Sgt. Kirkland added.

Meanwhile, Lambert said that if you know someone suffering from a medical situation, contact their medical professional to provide that information. You can do that without you or the professional violating any privacy laws.