April is Autism Awareness Month!

Amy GrayPost written by Amy Gray, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician

April is Autism Awareness Month. Awareness month efforts promote knowledge and increase awareness about widespread issues, popular subjects, or diseases to help educate the public. APRIL is the month to get educated about AUTISM!

What is Autism?

Autism is also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD now includes autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome, which are conditions that were previously diagnosed separately. 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.

Autism Awareness

How prevalent is Autism?

Data and Statistics on ASD

Autism AwarenessWhile 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 it actually is. Here are some key findings from the 2018 Community Report from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network’s most recent report.

  • About one in 59 children has been identified with ASD according to estimates from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.
  • ASD is about 4 times more common among boys than among girls.
  • ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups
  • Kansas has approximately 724,766 youth under the age of 18, which is 26 percent of the total Kansas population of 2,774,044. Using the statistics from the above report of one in 59 children having ASD, as many as 12,284 Kansas youth under the age of 18 could potentially have a diagnosis of Autism.

Missouri has approximately 1,422,225 youth under the age of 18, which is 24.5 percent of the population. Using the statistics from the above report of one in 59 children having ASD, as many as 24,106 youth under the age of 18 could potentially have a diagnosis of Autism.

Mental Illness Awareness Week

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

The first week of October, Sunday, Oct. 6 – Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019 is Mental Illness Awareness Week.

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

One in five adults will experience mental illness this 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 the access to care and help educate patients to reduce the stigma.

Mental Health Facts from NAMI

  • Mental Health Awareness WeekOne in five (46.6 million) adults in the United States experience a mental health condition each year.
  • One in 25 (11.2 million) adults in the United States experience a serious mental illness each 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. Forty-six percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental illness.
  • Suicide is the 10th 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.

National Suicide Prevention Month: Know who’s at risk and the warning signs.

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

According to the 2017 Kansas Annual Summary of Vital Statistics the Kansas Suicide Prevention Organization reported 544 suicide deaths in Kansas in 2017. The need for access to treatment and services continues to grow. Suicide is a risk for both adults and adolescents in our community.

HPC is dedicated to providing access to Mental Health Services to those in our community regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status.

According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds and close to 800,000 individuals die due to suicide each year. Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts on families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies. It is important to remember “for every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide every year. A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.” (WHO, 2019) Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs of suicide.

September marks National Suicide Prevention Month which is a perfect time to remind us who’s at risk and the warning signs.

Suicide Prevention LifelineWho is at Risk?

  • People who have previously tried to take their own life.
  • Someone with depression or an alcohol or drug problem.
  • Those who are suffering from severe emotional distress, for example following the loss of a loved one or a relationship break-up.
  • People suffering from chronic pain or illness.
  • People who have experienced war, violence, trauma, abuse or discrimination.
  • Those who are socially isolated

Warning Signs:

  • Threatening to kill oneself.
  • Saying things like “No-one will miss me when I am gone.”
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself, such as seeking access to pesticides, firearms or medication, or browsing the internet for means of taking one’s own life.
  • Saying goodbye to close family members and friends, giving away of valued possessions, or writing a will.

If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide there is help, please contact the suicide prevention line 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and seek help from a Licensed Mental Health Provider.

National Suicide Prevention

Winter Blues?


Rhiannon Moore, MA, PSYD | Licensed Psychologist Assistant | Behavioral Healthcare Director

Post written by Rhiannon Moore, MA, PSYD
Licensed Psychologist
Assistant Behavioral Healthcare Director

The fall and winter months can be riddled with stressors. Holidays, financial strain, inclement weather, changing work and school schedules, cold and flu season, final exams, and family demands and conflicts.

Grief and loss can also be especially difficult during this time of year and physical pain can be exacerbated by cold or damp weather. As a result, many people may experience changes to mood, sleep, appetite, and/or interactions with others to some degree during this chaotic time of year.

However, some people experience symptoms that are more severe, more impairing, and longer lasting. These people may have a form of Major Depressive Disorder commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Common symptoms of SAD include depressed mood, sleeping more or less than normal, appetite and/or weight changes, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, low energy, social isolation, and/or difficulty concentrating.

In more severe cases, individuals may experience thoughts of suicide or self-harm. People experiencing SAD will notice symptoms which persist for at least two weeks at a time and lead to difficulty in various areas of living including work, school, positive socialization and relationships, hygiene, family or financial responsibilities, and/or physical and medical care.

Individuals with true SAD will experience a pattern of symptoms recurring during particular times of year (most commonly in fall/winter) and resolving as the weather changes (typically in spring/summer) for several years.

Teens experiencing SAD may appear more irritable, argumentative, or withdrawn. This irritability can have a negative impact on family and social relationships. Focusing/concentrating may become more difficult which can impair school performance and worsen mood.

Low energy and fatigue can make it harder to socialize with friends and/or participate in work or extracurricular activities such as sports or clubs. Additionally, because teens are more likely to have poorer sleep habits in general, mood fluctuations can be more extreme as a result of inadequate sleep.

Like other forms of depression, SAD has multiple contributing factors. SAD is associated with decreased exposure to sunlight during the colder fall and winter months. This limited exposure disrupts the brain’s production of melatonin, a chemical essential in regulating sleep.

winter manAs sleep quality and quantity decline, symptoms can worsen. Lower Vitamin D and serotonin (a neurotransmitter associated with depression) levels from reduced sun exposure also play a role in SAD.

Environmental factors (i.e. increased stress) and genetics may also contribute in some cases. People most at risk for experiencing SAD are those with a personal or family history of depression.

If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing SAD (or any other mental illness), there are steps you can take.

If thoughts of suicide or self-harm are present, seek immediate attention by calling 9-1-1, using the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or visiting a medical provider or therapist.

It is always beneficial to schedule a medical appointment to rule out physical factors (such as thyroid conditions, menopause/perimenopause, diabetes, et cetera) which may be contributing to or causing symptoms.

Additionally, it is not uncommon for symptoms of other depressive and mood disorders to worsen in response to stressors or weather patterns. As a result, it is important to distinguish SAD from other types of mental illness by visiting with a psychiatric specialist.

For SAD specifically, “Happy Lights” mimic sunlight and can relieve/reduce symptoms in 50 to 80 percent of people. These lights can be purchased without a prescription. Antidepressant medications and therapy should also be considered. As with other forms of depression, self-care and coping strategies are important for managing symptoms and potentially preventing onset/relapse.

Because physical and emotional wellness are so closely related, people experiencing SAD can benefit from efforts to regulate sleep, improve nutrition and get regular physical activity.

Engaging in positive/meaningful activities and developing a strong social support network can also be helpful. Visit this link for some coping skills.

Some people find it beneficial to set weekly goals (“baby steps”) toward changes related to diet, sleep, exercise, and positive socialization.

Here are some resources:



Physical Activity