Originally published Tuesday, September 3, 2019 at 11:13a.m.

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — When people think of healthy living mental health often falls somewhere behind trying to maintain a nutritious diet, getting enough exercise and time management.

But the prevalence of mental illness suggests we could all do more self-care. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), about one in five adults will experience a mental illness in a given year. About one in 25 of those cases will be serious in nature, interfering with major life functions. Out of the 46 million adults suffering from a mental illness, only about 41 percent will receive treatment. For youth ages 8 to 15, that number rises slightly to 50 percent.

Access to mental health support in remote or rural areas like Grand Canyon can be especially challenging. Although North Country HealthCare, which runs the clinic, has staff to dedicate to the task, many community members don’t take advantage of their services.

Dr. Bennett Edgerly, a behavioral health consultant coordinator for North Country HealthCare, said the provider is working with Grand Canyon National Park leadership to offer quarterly discussions on topics identified as relevant to the community.

“We’ve talked about stress management and its relationship to your health, anger management and domestic violence and unhealthy strategies people try to feel better,” Edgerly said. “We have others planned for the next calendar year including stress management, how to recognize suicide risk, general mental healthcare and LGBTQ issues.”

Edgerly said North Country also offers daily behavioral health care, including psychiatric care that allows people to obtain prescriptions for medications for anxiety, depression and other disorders as well as psychotherapy. These services are currently only available through telemedicine services, but Edgerly said staff members in Williams are available to come to the Canyon in person if there are enough people who want to use their services.

Edgerly said the telemedicine program has been successful and the providers see regular patients from the Canyon. North Country accepts every insurance plan and has a sliding fee scale of $5 to $20 for those who are uninsured.

“We’re really trying to make ourselves as accessible as possible,” he said.

Although mental healthcare providers may want to collaborate with a patient’s primary care doctor, Edgerly said it’s usually not necessary for patients to travel to Flagstaff for their initial visit.

Although many of the Canyon’s residents are adults, the issue of treating children is a touchy subject. Because of North Country’s licensing, Edgerly said, providers can’t provide behavioral healthcare to patients under the age of 12. However, he said they can offer family sessions for adults to which minor children may be included. Adolescents aged 12 to 18 are eligible for private sessions as well as family therapy sessions.

The last session for 2019 takes place at the Rec Center Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. The topic will cover stress management and impaired work performance. Edgerly said the program is designed for managers to be able to recognize work performance-related issues in terms of stress management and staff members to recognize when they are experiencing a drop in their own productivity and whether it’s related to stress.

“All of us use some form of stress management, some of us better than others,” Edgerly said. “When it becomes atypical, it can lead to … alcoholism and domestic violence and those types of things.”

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