ERLANGER, Ky. – How to tackle the mental health crisis the country is facing is a question community leaders met with the goal of answering Friday in northern Kentucky.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s mental health summit featured the mother of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow as its keynote speaker.
In recent years, there’s been a growing awareness that struggles with mental health affect everyone. Not just that friend or family member down on their luck, but even, say, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Take it from Robin Burrow.
“They’re at a very high level, and they have a lot of pressure to perform. But you and I and the guy around the corner have our own stressors in our lives. And so I think it’s important that everyone thinks of it as a normal thing,” Burrow said.
Burrow is the secretary and treasurer of the Joe Burrow Foundation, which has a primary focus on helping children with mental illness and those experiencing food insecurity as well as providing resources and support to the underprivileged and underserved.
She’s also a retired principal and teacher, and senior executive of the Appalachian Children’s Coalition.
Burrow spoke about the need to address mental health issues in schools at the summit.
“Really, the biggest reason I wanted to be here today is to help bring awareness to the mental health and wellness of our children, and the crisis that we are in,” she said. “As an educator, I’ve seen a huge uptick in behavior in the last, really, five to 10 years, especially in the last three or four. And I think those negative behaviors in schools are really affecting our education system and the ability of our teachers to be able to do their job of educating our youth. And I believe the behaviors are stemming from traumatic experiences that our children are going through and the exposure to adult situations.”
The goal of the summit was to bring together stakeholders across communities to address the mental health crisis and brainstorm action plans.
“We need all of our community partners to help us deal with these issues. So we wanted to bring everyone together to have those conversations, and start talking about the things we can do to make a difference,” said Dr. Heidi Murley, President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Physicians.
Clinical Director of Behavioral Health and Addiction Medicine Lisa Arrasmith said anxiety, depression and suicide rates are all climbing. In turn, St. Elizabeth is hiring more physicians, but it’s an uphill battle.
“The demand is too high for what we actually have. Seeing patients in the capacity we do in outpatient with the amount of time we give our patients also creates more barriers for access for new patients to get in,” she said. “We’re behind.”
Murley said prominent people like Joe Burrow speaking up about mental health issues have gone a long way in destigmatizing them.
“The national stage that a lot of professional athletes and professional actors and politicians and other leaders have given us an opportunity to have this conversation a bit more broadly,” she said.
That’s a good thing, Murley said, but it also creates more of a demand for care.
“It’s alright to ask for help,” Arrasmith said. “It doesn’t have to be something you hide from, or that you’re afraid your parents won’t listen to you about.”
Burrow said she’s proud to play a part in addressing the need.
“I think that really normalizing the struggles people go through is something that we as a society have to really focus on and be empathetic to,” she said.
St. Elizabeth sees 200 to 250 patients a day in an outpatient setting alone for mental health issues.