HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mental Health Association of South Mississippi is a place where people living with mental illness can go to find community.
"This is really a step forward in my recovery working here at MHA," said Chris Marcell, peer support specialist, living with schizophrenia.
Marcell says he turned to drugs and alcohol due to feelings of isolation from the stigma that comes with having a mental illness. He credits family intervention and MHA for getting him to the point where he is now.
"We have a wonderful team here at Mental Health Association of South Mississippi, and I am privileged to work with a program coordinator and a certified peer support specialist who have a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience in this industry," said Marcell.
Support groups meet almost everyday at the facility. Kimberly Berta, director of programs, says it's important for people living with mental illness to be amongst their peers.
"One in five Americans deal with a mental condition every year, so it's a very common thing. It's not something that people need to be scared of," said Berta.
MHA also offers an online questionnaire for those who think they may be battling a mental condition.
"It's just a series of questions that you answer. At the end, it will kind of rank what your scoring was and give you some idea of whether you might need to seek some additional assistance for mental health," said Kay Deneault.
If assistance is needed, non-profit Gulf Coast Mental Health can help as well.
"We offer services ranging from children services. We start at age three all the way up until services for elderly clients," said Shelley Foreman.
The crisis stabilization unit is for inpatient treatment of chronically ill patients. But the facility also offers a special crisis response service. It's a team of people who can be called upon in the event someone is going through a crisis and doesn't know what to do.
"If there's a person calling that needs a mobile response say there's someone in crisis that is suicidal and we believe we need to go and assess the situation, we can certainly send someone out there to do a mobile response to that crisis call," said Shelley Foreman who is the Executive Director of Gulf Coast Mental Health.
While needing help can feel scary, Foreman wants people to know they can live a much fuller life if they just seek treatment.
"It is not a death sentence, people need to understand there are a lot of highly functioning people living within society that are diagnosed with schizophrenia, that are diagnosed with bipolar, that are diagnosed with anxiety and depression, that are extremely successful. So if we're able to treat people early and keep them stabilized and consistent on their medication, they can be anything they want to be," said Foreman.
Within a year of a first time psychotic episode, Gulf Coast Mental Health can possibly offer treatment free of charge as part of a grant program.