Mental health challenges affect millions of people of all ages. Yet, many people are too embarrassed to ask for help. /courtesy photo
Mental health challenges affect millions of people of all ages. Yet, many people are too embarrassed to ask for help. (Courtesy photo)
Submitted by AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia

Life is full of surprises. Each day brings new beginnings. It also brings new challenges. As a result, it is normal to feel stressed once in a while. And it’s common to feel sad or anxious at times. These are normal emotions. For most people, these feelings pass in a few hours. In serious cases, they may take a few days to pass. But for people living with a mental health condition (sometimes called behavioral health), everyday-life can be a struggle. Over time, this can take a toll on physical health, too.

A person struggling with his or her mental health may experience severe depression, anxiety or frequent changes in mood. These issues can affect relationships, lower self-esteem and make it hard to function. This is why it is so important for those with mental health issues to get the care they need.

May is Mental Health Month. Now is the perfect time to reflect on your state of mind and find help if you need it.

Overcoming barriers

Mental health challenges affect millions of people of all ages. Yet, many people are too embarrassed to ask for help. That’s because mental and physical illnesses are often viewed differently in today’s society. Sadly, stigmas toward people who have a mental health issues exist today. A stigma uses negative labels to identify a person. Stigmas cause people to feel ashamed. It can also hold them back from seeking the help they need.

Stigmas are not the only barriers to care for those who need help. Language barriers and speech concerns can also make people hesitant to seek treatment. These barriers can make people more anxious because they can cause uncertainty. Some people may not know whether a doctor can communicate with them in their preferred language or how they will be viewed as a non-English-speaking person. The good news is there are plenty of resources available — regardless of one’s preferred language.

In addition to May being Mental Health Month, May is also Better Hearing and Speech Month. This is important because communication is key to getting help. We are celebrating by informing members about the resources available to bridge the communication gap.

“Educating people on the resources that are out there is important,” said Liliana Martin del Campo Lustig, a behavioral health care manager with AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia (DC). “For AmeriHealth Caritas DC members, all our provider locations have interpreters. Our Member Services department can also translate member materials into any language. Resources are also available for those with speech and hearing impairments.”

Regardless of how you communicate, resources you need are available. But the road to wellness begins with the decision to help yourself. This is true no matter how bad you feel.

Ways you can help yourself

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Symptoms of mental health issues can be different for each person, so it is important to know how you feel and act throughout the day. Try healthy ways to improve your mood and energy levels. It can be hard, but you can do it. Start slow and use these tips on your journey to wellness:

  • Talk with your doctors about your feelings. This as a positive step to start feeling like yourself again. Your doctor can help you get the treatment you need. He or she may suggest joining a program or seeing a behavior health specialist. Be sure to be open and honest with your doctors. This can help you get the right treatment so you start feeling better faster.
  • Find support through family and friends. Try not to spend too much time alone. Spend time with friends or family who support you. It may help to share your thoughts with people you trust, such as a spouse, best friend or religious advisor. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Be active. Exercise can take your mind off the day-to-day worries and improve your mood. Over time, it can give you more energy throughout the day. Daily activity can also help you sleep better at night. Try something new. AmeriHealth Caritas DC members can take free fitness classes at our Member Wellness Center. It’s located at 2027 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20020. No matter how you choose to be active, keep your body moving for at least 30 minutes each day. Children should be active for at least 60 minutes each day.
  • Eat healthy. In addition to exercise, eating healthy foods can boost your energy. Be sure to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Also, be sure to drink lots of water instead of sugary drinks.
  • Don’t use non-prescribed medicines or alcohol. Mental health challenges and substance use are often linked together. Unfortunately, some people use alcohol to cope with their conditions. Others may use over-the-counter or non-prescribed medicines. Non-prescribed medicines are medicines not ordered by a doctor. Alcohol and medicines not prescribed to you can make symptoms worse. Only take medicines as directed by your doctor.
  • Break down tasks. When it comes to your tasks, breaking them down into smaller parts can help to set priorities. Do a little bit each day, even though you might not feel like it.
  • Try to stay positive. Push negative thoughts out of your mind. Focus on the positive. Avoid things you know can trigger your depression or anxiety. And try to find fun things that you enjoy or that make you laugh.

Help is available now

If you are concerned about your mental health, ask for help. This is very important. There is nothing to be ashamed about. This is the first step toward getting better. There are many services to help with the care you need. Talk with your doctor and keep these numbers handy (in your wallet or cell phone):

  • If you are an AmeriHealth Caritas DC member, we can help manage your care needs. You can reach Member Services by calling at 1-800-408-7511 (TTY/TDD 1-800-570-1190).
  • If you or someone you know is suicidal or having a mental health emergency, get help now. You can speak with a crisis worker at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1‑800‑273‑8255.
  • If you are having a crisis, call 911 right away.

Take the first step toward getting better and ask for help. You are not alone.

A Spotlight on Our Behavioral Health Partners

The McClendon Center

The McClendon Center helps adult AmeriHealth Caritas DC members with behavioral health issues. First, McClendon Center staff evaluates the member. This helps them understand the member’s condition. As part of the discussion, they look at all the care needs. Then, the staff connects the member to the services they need to get well.

AmeriHealth Caritas DC has a special partnership with the McClendon Center. When a member with a behavioral health condition is admitted to the hospital, the McClendon Center staff visits him or her during their stay. This is to make sure the member’s behavioral health needs are taken care of before they go home. The goal is a safe and healthy transition when the member leaves the hospital. The McClendon Center staff also helps our members admitted to a psychiatric hospital transition back into the community. They help connect them to substance use treatment, housing and other services.

To learn more about the McClendon Center, visit

PSI Services

For AmeriHealth Caritas DC members ages 6 ─ 17 who are admitted to the hospital for a behavioral health condition, PSI Services helps manage their needs. PSI Services staff talk to the member and their family to get a complete medical history. They also look at any outside factors affecting the situation. PSI Services even takes on the hard step of addressing any behavioral health issues the parents may have. This is because a parent’s mental health could put the child’s health at risk.

AmeriHealth Caritas DC’s partnership with PSI Services helps families understand behavioral health conditions. This makes it is easier for members to get connected with the care they need. It also helps to reduce stigmas. PSI Services helps with finding transportation, medicine pick-up and secure housing. If there are any concerns, PSI Services contacts AmeriHealth Caritas DC to help resolve those issues.

To learn more about PSI Services, visit

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

All images are used under license for illustrative purposes only. Any individual depicted is a model

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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