Local doctor encourages mental health wellness amid pandemic

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For Metal Health Awareness Month this May, a local doctor wants to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“There has been this view of mental health, mental illness as being a weakness or being something different than if someone has hypertension, or high cholesterol or diabetes,” said Dr. Shannon Stromberg, the medical director for the Behavioral Health Program at Presbyterian. “People don’t want to get help or treatment, or they’re really reluctant to and they wait too long.”

Self-stigma also needs to be ditched.

“Don’t take on your illness and think that’s who you are and that’s who you have to be. You are not depression. You are not anxiety. These are things that can get better,” he said.

The first step is seeking help. Dr. Stromberg explained people don’t need to reach out to a psychiatrist first. He said primary care doctors treat up to 80% of all mental health issues.

So he doesn’t want people to let the stigma stick, especially now with the pandemic worsening the issue.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said 1 in 5 adults reported having a mental health condition before 2020. Research from this year shows the numbers went up to 2 in 5 adults or higher.

Dr. Stromberg doesn’t need a study to know more people need help.

“We are busier, and I think while I’d rather not be busier because it would mean people are healthier, I am cognizant of the fact that it does seem like people are reaching out and trying to come in,” he said.

If anyone needs some support, they can contact the NAMI helpline Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) at 1 (800) 950-6264.