“The whole idea is to gather information about what people actually know or believe about mental health services in Bartow County, so that we can identify the gaps in the services,” said Cathy Green, co-chair of BHM’s Prevention Work Group. “... We just want to gather enough information, so that we have a starting point to know what the gaps are and what we need to address in our community. We will use [the results] to decide the approach we should take to prevention and early intervention of mental health, because there are things that we can do in the community to help prevent or to intervene early and this will help guide the service provision as we’re able to offer different services in the community.
“It will help guide us to know what services to offer as well as if ... opportunities come available for funding, then we will have our information and data gathered to know that we’re actually going to apply to extend funds in the correct direction. We can guess at what the community needs, but you really don’t know until you gather the information. So anything we do, we want it to be scientific based and research founded.”
Located online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/BartowforHealthyMinds, the Prevention Survey can be completed through May 23.
“It’s a simple survey,” said Green, RN, BSN, MPH, who also serves as the nurse manager for the Bartow County Public Health Department. “It only takes 5, at the most 10 minutes according to how wordy [the person is] because there are areas that you can respond and elaborate on the answers. ... Of course, we gather the demographics at the beginning of the survey and then we ask some questions and [provide] statements related to mental illness prevention and early intervention, because this is the section of the committee that works on prevention and early intervention.
“We really want to know if people believe the issues with mental illness — like, can it be prevented? Do people believe it can be prevented? Then can substance abuse and addictive disorders be prevented and are there things that can be done to improve someone’s mental health? And we ask for examples, if somebody wants to provide examples. If you don’t provide any examples, it’s a very quick survey. Then we ask, ‘Are there things you are doing to improve your own mental health or the mental health of others or the mental health of the community?’ Then we want to know really if people are even aware in our community of efforts going on to improve the mental health of our community, because we do have efforts going on in our community and some services available that people simply are not aware of.”
After they are collected, the results will be published in the fall by Bartow Collaborative.
“My background is in public health and family medicine,” said Dr. Paul Newell, a member of BHM. “In my public health career, I really came to recognize and I think that ... Bartow for Healthy Minds and this Prevention Work Group really recognizes that there is a need to get feedback from the community not only from provider groups and professional groups, but from the general public, from people who may be affected by mental illness and who would have an interest in the prevention of mental illness, and that really includes everybody in the community. There’s a real need to consult and to see what folks think about what you’re trying to do.
“When we have the information, we believe that it will be of great value as was our first survey ... at least two, if not three years ago. It gave us an enormously helpful start on what we were doing, because we could see confirmation on some things that we already were suspecting were true, that there were some real service gaps and needs that weren’t being met.”
He continued, “So now, we’re looking at the subject of prevention and early intervention in mental illness and trying to get enough information from enough sources that we’ll have some good starting points in terms of what we can encourage, what we can advocate, what we can support to actually improve the situation. We believe that mental illness, while not 100 percent preventable, that there are a lot of things that can be done in terms of dealing with or mitigating risk factors and intervening at an early stage before things get really serious.”