What is community mental health?
You might not realize it, but support for people with mental health disorders doesn’t always come solely from counselors and doctors. Communities help out, too. Community mental health services include housing support, case management, and financial assistance for people who are receiving or have received treatment from a mental health professional. Support services like halfway houses and self-help groups let these individuals build relationships and grow with peers working through similar issues; they serve as mini communities in themselves.
Many of these services are made possible through federal and local government funding, and are also carried out by private and volunteer organizations. Not only are these services a more cost-effective option than institutionalization, but they can provide mental health patients with the invaluable opportunity to live normal lives with their friends and family.
What’s going on in the Loudoun County community?
While Loudoun County has made great strides in addressing mental health disorders, the numbers remain alarming. In the state of Virginia, 240,000 to 300,000 suffer from serious mental illness. The prevalence of mental illness is reflected in the fact that out of the 30,000 Virginians serving time in our state prisons, there are 22,000 who are suffering from mental illness.
Suicide is an area where a diagnosable mental illness—such as depression and bipolar disorder—plays a significant role. In 2013, Loudoun’s suicide death rate was 9.2 per 100,000 people, which is more than double the county’s traffic death rate of 3.7 per 100,000.
Without adequate support services in the community, many people living with mental health disorders struggle to live safely on a day to day basis. This phenomenon can lead to increased risks of homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse disorders, and suicides.
What can I do to help out?
If someone you know is living with a mental health disorder, you can always reach out to a local mental health community organization for guidance. These organizations serve as liaisons to mental health professionals, and can provide wrap-around services that help re-integrate these people back into their communities. After all, communities help us recognize we’re not alone, and good mental health helps us remember that.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call:
911 (local emergency services in Loudoun County)
(703) 777-0320 (Emergency Intervention Services, Loudoun County Mental Health)
(703) 547-4077 (Crisis Link Regional Hotline)
(800) 273-TALK (National Suicide Prevention Hotline)
 Knapp, M., Beecham, J., McDaid, D., Matosevic, T. and Smith, M. (2011), The economic consequences of deinstitutionalisation of mental health services: lessons from a systematic review of European experience. Health & Social Care in the Community, 19: 113–125. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2010.00969.x
 Ihara, Randy. (2015), A mental illness funding crisis in Virginia and Loudoun County. Presentation.