Mental Illness Awareness Week focuses on “Together for Mental Health”

By John Smart, LSCSW, Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker

John SmartDuring Mental Illness Awareness Week, Sunday, Oct. 3 through Saturday, Oct. 9, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is promoting advocacy and awareness for people with serious mental illness (SMI) through its “Together for Mental Health” campaign. According to NAMI each day throughout the week, we will be raising the voices of people with lived experience to talk about SMI and the need for improved crisis response and mental health care.

Other advocacy and awareness events coinciding with Mental Illness Awareness Week are:

  • Tuesday Oct. 5: National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
  • Thursday Oct. 7: National Depression Screening Day
  • Saturday Oct. 9: NAMIWalks United Day of Hope
  • Sunday Oct. 10: World Mental Health Day

Why does mental illness awareness matter?

Mental health is a huge part of overall health and should be a priority for everyone, whether you have a mental health condition or not.

In its campaign for greater awareness of the impact of mental illness in the United States, NAMI shares some important facts:

  • One in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year, but less than two-thirds get treatment.
  • One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
  • One in six U.S. youth aged six to 17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the tenth leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35 percent since 1999.
  • Annual prevalence among U.S. adults, by condition:
    • Anxiety Disorders: 19.1 percent (estimated 48 million people)
    • Major Depressive Episode: 7.8 percent (19.4 million people)
    • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6 percent (estimated 9 million people)
    • Bipolar Disorder: 2.8 percent (estimated 7 million people)
    • Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4 percent (estimated 3.5 million people)
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2 percent (estimated 3 million people)
    • Schizophrenia: <1 percent (estimated 1.5 million people)

Behind the Statistics

NAMI - Together for Mental HealthBehind the statistics there are countless stories of those impacted by serious mental illness. Limited resources for responding to mental health crises can have tragic results. In many cases ineffective crisis response results in traumatization of the person suffering from a mental health crisis, as well as traumatic impacts on loved ones, friends and crisis responders. In some cases, the crisis may lead to serious injury or death of the person experiencing the mental health crisis, and risk of injury or death of crisis responders. Communities, including many in the Kansas City region, are seeking to improve their responses to mental health needs through use of law-enforcement Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), mental health co-responders to assist police and the addition of social service workers to police departments.

The Effects of Mental Illness

The effect of mental illness on individuals, families and communities is more commonly experienced in the day-to-day lives of those impacted. This can be felt through isolation, loss of relationships, unemployment and erosion of the sense of purpose and direction we all hope to find in life. There is good reason to have hope for recovery though, and this hope is found in the same place the painful impact is felt. Through the strengths and resources found within each person, their families, communities, organizations, employers, churches and more, recovery does happen. The recovery process often includes professional help to support the development of effective coping skills and symptom management tools while individuals are working to build on their own strengths.

If you know someone who needs help and you’re not sure where to start, a bit of wisdom that was recently shared with me may be useful, “slow down and listen.” Many times, that is what is most needed as someone begins to work on their mental health recovery process.
John Smart LSCSW, Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker

At HPC, we offer affordable in person and telehealth Therapy Services to Youth 12 and older, and adults.

Patients can schedule an appointment by calling 913-730-3664.

Or if you need to find professional help for a friend, family member or yourself, please see the additional resources below.

National and local resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-TALK (8255)
En Espanol 1-888-628-9454

Mental Health America

Johnson County Mental Health
Crisis Line 913-268-0156

Health Partnership Clinic
Behavioral Health Services 913-648-2266

Community mental health centers are found throughout the United States.
To find the community mental health center nearest you in Kansas or Missouri:



July is Minority Mental Health Month 

You Are Not Alone

Cecilia Ponce

Health Partnership Clinic

By Cecilia Ponce, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician 

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) has adopted “You Are Not Alone” as a moto for this year and Minority Mental Health Month. Throughout the month of July, NAMI will be sharing their Strength Over Silence mini-series, personal stories of lived experiences, blogs and other publications in hopes to forge a sense of connection in a socially distanced world.


Minority Mental Health

Minority Mental Health is unique in that we must address how culture, race and ethnicity may be both a risk factor as well as resiliency factor for the individual/group/community. As mentioned in years past, the goal of this designation is to improve access to mental health treatment, to help destigmatize mental health and to promote public awareness.

Some question how minorities might experience mental health and outcomes differently. It would be near impossible to discuss this without mentioning the effects of racism (overt and institutional), homophobia, ethnocentrism and discrimination on persons from minority groups. Language is powerful and creating an “othering” of a population is a double-edged sword of sorts.

You Are Not Alone

According to NAMI, mental illness doesn’t choose who is affected by it, but culture, race, gender, or sexual orientation can affect access to treatment, support and quality of care for many. Let’s change this.

At HPC, we are lucky to provide culturally-effective care in an integrated setting.

We have staff that are bicultural, bilingual, who are trained and dedicated to providing quality care. We encourage staff to build on the natural curiosity, continue their education and collaborate with patients on treatment plans and care.

The Behavioral Health Team at HPC invites you to celebrate Minority Mental Health Month this July. And let us all continue to work together to “strive to create and maintain environments that foster cultural humility, which are culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of all people.”

Clinic Now Offers Affordable Therapy Services

Tristen WinstonBy Tristen Winston, MA, PsyD, LP, LCAC, Licensed psychologist, Behavioral Health Director at Health Partnership Clinic

Health Partnership Clinic is now offering affordable in person and telehealth Therapy Services to youth, 12 and older, and adults.

Services include help with emotional and behavioral health concerns related to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief/loss
  • Substance abuse
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Stress management for chronic health conditions
  • Relationship issues
  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes mental health management.

Services will be available in English and Spanish. Our specialized and credentialed therapists include myself, Cecilia Ponce, LSCSW, and Amy Gray, LSCSW. The clinic’s sliding fee discount program is based on income and household size.

Download the brochure: English | Spanish

To schedule an appointment or for more information, call 913-730-3664.

Health Partnership Clinic - Behavioral Health Therapy Services

APRIL is Autism Awareness Month!

Post written by Amy Gray, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician

April is Autism Awareness Month. Awareness month efforts promote knowledge and increase awareness of public health issues. April is the month to learn more about AUTISM!


Autism is formally defined as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disability characterized by significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASD often communicate, behave and learn in different ways. Some people with ASD are gifted and some may be severely challenged. Some people with ASD may need help in their daily lives and others may need very little. ASD now includes autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome, which are conditions that were previously diagnosed separately.


Data and Statistics on ASD

While there are a lot of efforts to evaluate and treat Autism, the prevalence is difficult to assess. Estimates are used to extrapolate data of known cases to determine how prevalent ASD actually is.

Key findings from the 2020 Community Report from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network’s most recent report include:

  • About one in 54 or 1.85 percent of eight-year-old children were identified with ASD according to estimates from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network
  • ASD is about four times more common among boys than among girls and occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

New findings in the most recent 2020 report:

  • For the first time ADDM Network data found no overall difference in the number of black children identified with autism compared to white children. However, the number of Hispanic children identified with autism is still lower compared to white or black children.
  • More four-year-old children with ASD received evaluation by 36 months in 2016 (84 percent) than in 2014 (74 percent).

Additional Information

The CDC has a new data visualization tool that lets users map and graph ASD data. You can see that here.

For more information, visit the World Health Organization’s website.

Or check out the Autism Society website.

Take care of your mental health.

Take Care of Your Mental HealthIt’s perfectly natural to feel anxious, stressed or frustrated when there is uncertainty in your life. For some people, that mental toll may lead to pervasive anxiety or even depression. It’s been a stressful year for some, and it’s important to know, you are not struggling alone.

Consider these lifestyle changes to help you cope and better manage your symptoms and reach out to a professional for help when needed. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, consider seeking out a mental health professional for additional support.

Here are 5 tips for how to cope during stressful times.

Stay connected.
It’s OK to turn to friends, family or health care providers for emotional or other support. Set a time each day to call or check in with your loved ones. Reach out and reconnect with old friends you’ve lost touch with. You can also write and send letters to friends and family via mail or email.

Set boundaries.
While it’s important to have up-to-date, reliable information, you should limit your time watching and reading the news if it makes you feel anxious.

Keep busy.
Take Care of Your Mental HealthFind hobbies or activities that also can help you relax. Try deep breathing, stretching or meditation. Reading books, drawing or doing puzzles can also be calming.

Be prepared.
Make sure you know what medications and medical supplies you need. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if it’s possible to keep extra on hand. Plan ahead, so you know what food and household supplies you need. It can be reassuring to know that you have everything on hand in case of an emergency.

Live and Work Well LogoTake Care.  Find articles, self-care tools, caring providers, and more mental health and substance use resources at

For more information about the UnitedHealthcare KanCare Program click here.

Self-Care… In A Pandemic

Amy GrayBy Amy Gray, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician


Self-care almost always evokes an image for people, whether it be a hot bath, a vacation, or pampering in some way. Self-care is not one-size-fits-all and can come in all shapes and sizes. Some people are filled up by meditation or yoga, others prefer walking in the woods or journaling. Self-care requires time and attention and focus, is developed over time, and should be a part of our regular routine to keep ourselves healthy and mentally strong. Self-care is an act, a habit, or a practice.

There are several types or categories of self-care, including: Emotional, Mental, Physical, Pleasure, Sensory, Social, and Spiritual.

Emotional Self-Care Ideas

The website identifies the following Emotional Self-Care Ideas:

Self care idea

Emotional Wellness

TeaEmotional wellness is difficult in our world in a regular year, yet during a pandemic year, the obstacles can seem monumental. Break things down into doable steps. Ask for help when needed. Cry if you need to, and use grounding to keep focused. There is no precedence for how you should respond in times like this, it is a pandemic and nothing about that is natural.

Physical self-care is important for mental and emotional health and aids in sleep and eating habits. Motivation might be hard to come by, start small and get moving. Social self-care allows us to connect with others. Finding ways to spend time with people (via social media apps, social distancing, etc.) is important. Spending time in prayer or at online church services can mitigate the loss of church family, church events and spiritual practices. In all areas important to you, try to make new traditions that feed your needs and raise your spirits.

…In A Pandemic!!

Stacked StonesIn the past year, many people have struggled due to the changes COVID19 has made to our daily lives. Our safety and security has been threatened by a very real virus, and mental health effects have been significant. An increase in anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, and relationship issues have been evident in the patients seen at Health Partnership. Patients who have never experienced anxiety and depression are reporting problems for the first time, and many patients with a history are reporting a significant increase in symptoms.

More than one-third of Americans have displayed clinical signs of anxiety, depression, or both since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The American Psychological Association (which typically issues an annual mental health survey) has been releasing a monthly report, Stress in America 2020: Stress in the Time of COVID-19.

Signs of BurnoutAccording to PEW Research, one-third of Americans (33 percent) have experienced high levels of psychological distress at some point during the extended period of social distancing undertaken to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More than half (55 percent) of adults who describe their financial situation as poor have experienced high levels of distress, as have half of those who report having a disability or handicap that keeps them from fully participating in work, school or other activities.

It is important to normalize the effects a global pandemic, including widespread shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, remote-only school attendance and the loss of connection that people are experiencing. Weddings have been canceled or rescheduled. Funerals have been delayed or family members have been unable to travel to say goodbye. Baby showers and birthday parties and bar mitsvahs and graduations and anniversaries and holidays…the list goes on and on. In a global pandemic, the rules change, and “normal” is simplified and redefined. In a pandemic, the main goal is survival.

Dr. Joy Osofsky in Psychology Today writes: “Self-care is crucial to support health and mental health, which starts with establishing regular routines for this “new normal” environment that include getting enough sleep, eating regular meals, exercise and making connections virtually with family and friends.”

Helpful Hints for Surviving, or Even Thriving, in a Pandemic

Surviving or Thriving in a Pandemic

ADAPT: Individual self-care in a pandemic needs to adapt to the current circumstances. Work on making small changes, don’t try to change everything all at once. Set a daily or weekly goal and find JOY in celebrating the small wins and good efforts you make.

GRATITUDE: Practice gratitude by journaling 5 good things that have happened, and/or make sticky notes and place them on your bathroom mirror as a reminder of positive things happening.

PROPS: A bright light or light box are used for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and mimic daylight, which can be very helpful for people who get down during the dark winter months. As little as 10 minutes a day can help lift your mood. Finding light, in a light box, a conversation, or at the end of this very long pandemic tunnel, is critical.

JOY: Find some JOY….and celebrate everything!!! Celebrate getting the laundry done, getting out of bed, feeding yourself healthy food, and making time for self-care activities. Celebrating helps focus on success and progress. Practice gratitude and celebrate surviving the year 2020.


Are you at risk for addiction? Surviving the holidays substance free.

Tristen WinstonBy Tristen Winston, MA, PsyD, LP, LCAC, Licensed psychologist and Behavioral Health Director, Health Partnership Clinic

The holidays are usually a time of stress. This year will be unlike any other with additional stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we may not have family stress from large gatherings, this year, the pandemic may lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. To reduce these feelings, stay connected by phone or video as much as possible. Continue with holiday traditions, with a new twist or start all new traditions.

With an increase in stress, especially around the holidays, it can be tempting to turn to the use of substances, like alcohol. Unfortunately, these unhealthy coping skills can only provide temporary relief and lead to harmful consequences. For those at risk of addiction or in recovery, the holiday season stress can be a trigger for relapse.

This holiday season, plan to use healthy habits to manage stress and use alternative activities to celebrate that do not include alcohol or other substances. Including alcohol as a part of festivities can lead to problems for many of our family and friends. Remember that the holiday season is about gratitude and not simply material gifts. Find new ways to focus on the meaning of the season.

Family Fun

Here are some tips to have a substance-free holiday:

  • Reading the Letter she wrote to SantaStay connected to family and friends virtually
  • Enjoy activities such as playing games or watching movies
  • Enjoy a cup of hot apple cider or warm cup of hot chocolate
  • Celebrate the festivities by singing holiday songs
  • Spend time cooking or baking
  • Volunteer in the community to help those less fortunate, serve meals at a shelter, join a clothing or food drive, or participate in an adopt-a-family or child program

At Health Partnership Clinic, we provide affordable substance use services at our Olathe clinic and through telehealth services at the Shawnee Mission, Paola and Ottawa sites. Services, including assessment and treatment, are available to adults and adolescents, 12 and older.

If you or a loved one are at risk and need help, please call 913-730-3664.

Coffee and Cookies

Mental Illness Awareness Week – First Week of October

Tristen WinstonPost by Tristen Winston, MA, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist and Behavioral Health Director

Mental Illness Awareness Week is the first week of Oct. It begins on Sunday, Oct. 4 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 10.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. However, mental illness affects everyone directly or indirectly through family, friends or coworkers. It is vital that we recognize the importance of mental health and continue to combat the stigma that still exists.

This is why Mental Illness Awareness Week is so very important to our community.

Research shows that one in five adults will experience mental illness each year.

Since 1990, when Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week, advocates have worked together to sponsor activities, large or small, to educate the public about mental illness. Education is key to removing the stigma to mental illness and mental health treatment.

It is important to learn the signs, symptoms and treatment options. Access to treatment can be a challenging process. At Health Partnership Clinic we are proud to offer Integrative Behavioral Health Care to all our patients regardless of their financial status or ability to pay. We believe that incorporating mental health evaluation in the Primary Care setting can increase access to care and help educate patients to reduce the stigma.

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Health Facts from NAMI

  • One in five (46.6 million) adults in the United States experience a mental health condition in a given year.
  • One in 25 (11.2 million) adults in the United States experience a serious mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 46.6 million adults in the United States face the reality of managing a mental illness every day.
  • Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24, but early intervention programs can help.
  • Up to 90 percent of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness as revealed by psychological autopsy. Of those, 46 percent who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental illness.
  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. With effective care, suicidal thoughts are treatable, and suicide is preventable.
  • Individuals with mental health conditions face an average 11-year delay between experiencing symptoms and starting treatment.
  • Common barriers to treatment include the cost of mental health care and insurance, prejudice and discrimination, and structural barriers like transportation.
  • Even though most people can experience relief from symptoms and support for their recovery in treatment, less than half of the adults in the United States get the help they need.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month

Delanie Barnard, MA, Kansas City University, Doctoral CandidatePost written by Delanie Barnard, MA, Kansas City University, Doctoral Candidate

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time when mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. In 2017, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States claiming the lives of over 47,000 people. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. Overall rates of suicide have steadily climbed in all age groups since 1999.

What can you do to help prevent suicide?

The first step is to know the 12 suicide warning signs:

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide

National Suicide Prevention LifelineWhat can you do if someone you know is showing these warning signs?

ASK them about their suicidal thoughts, BE THERE and stay connected with that person, KEEP THEM SAFE by asking if they have a plan to hurt themselves, HELP THEM CONNECT to suicide resources, and FOLLOW UP with them to see how they are doing.

You can find more resources for how to support someone in crisis at

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) (en Español 1-888-628-9454) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

National Minority Mental Health Month: Opportunity for Education and Change

Post written by Cecilia Ponce, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician

July has been designated as National Minority Mental Health Month.

Cecilia Ponce

In May of 2008, The United States House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Bebe Moore Campbell identified as African American and was a well-known author, advocate and the co-founder of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Urban Los Angeles. Campbell passed in 2006, but her tireless work lives on. The goal of this designation is to improve access to mental health treatment, to help destigmatize mental health and to promote public awareness.

Upon first glance, one might question the difference between mental health diagnosing and treatment of persons identified as minorities. As a mental health professional or health professional, we are taught to assess, collaborate and treat individuals with a culturally effective approach. We are also taught that in the presence of culture there is no diagnosis and also provided with an explanation of “cultural concepts of distress” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

According to the last Census (2017) about 40 percent of the U.S. population identifies as a minority, and minorities account for the majority of the population in four states. The U.S. Census names African American, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino and two or more races as minorities. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), states racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to have access to mental health services and more likely to utilize emergency departments in hospitals; and as a whole appear to have poorer mental health outcomes.

Breaking Down Barriers

As a Social Worker and Mental Health Professional (BHC), it is my professional and personal mission to help break down barriers to care and help empower clients. This aligns with Health Partnership Clinic’s mission “we are dedicated to improving the health of the communities we serve through the provision of high quality, affordable, accessible and culturally appropriate care to all individuals regardless of ability to pay”. We also offer integrated visits and promote wellness with a preventative approach thus decreasing the barriers of cost, wait times, referral process and stigma. We are patient centered, and we treat the whole person.

ThinkingAs I write this blog, we as a nation are experiencing political and systemic protests, a pandemic and economic instability. Given this platform, it would be irresponsible to leave out the impact that discrimination and racism has on minority mental health. As a Latinx individual, I have the privilege of being bicultural, bilingual and other. This does not imply that I am impervious to direct discrimination, microaggressions and institutional barriers that many of our patients face.


Our campaign of #HPCSTRONG fits best to describe how a diverse group of medical and mental health professionals can help break down barriers and empower individuals one visit at a time, one community outreach program at a time, one educational support presentation at a time, and one advocacy event at a time.  We can accept that mental illness does not discriminate and those of us who identify as minorities have different experiences and ways of coping.

“Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans…It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible (Campbell, 2005).”

Health Partnership Clinic: July is Minority Mental Health MonthThis July, let us honor Campbell and other advocates who have come before us to incite change.

Below is a list of ways that you can help ignite change:

  1. Presentation: Consider a dialogue or communication with your community about mental health.
  2. Strive to be a culturally competent provider/professional.
  3. Advocate: call, write, dialogue, and/or present to your legislators both locally and nationally.
  4. Share your story or experience.
  5. Join a virtual or in-person walk (NAMI, PRO-ACT Recovery, Out of the Darkness, Speak Up).
  6. Consider donating to a local agency or campaign.
  7. If you are a health or mental health professional continue your education: