Rockdale leaders examine ways to help mentally ill

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Rockdale County Commissioner Doreen Williams led a symposium on Dec. 20 to discuss ways to better deliver mental health services to Rockdale residents who need them.

The issue is one that many who attended the symposium said they have witnessed firsthand as relatives or case managers and through their work in the community.

“This is a critical issue, especially during this time of year when we’re celebrating the holidays. These individuals are experiencing feelings of sadness, irritability and anxiety and often don’t know where to turn,” said Williams.

The symposium, which brought together a cross-section of 22 leaders including the Rockdale County Jail, court system, nonprofits, churches, school system, health facilities and the business sector, gave leaders the chance to share resources and discuss ways to be more effective in getting the word out to the community at large.

Approximately 20-25 percent of the U.S. population experiences a mental health issue and there is a 15 percent increase in the number of individuals seeking help for emotional disorders in December, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) says that 64 percent of people with mental illness report that the holidays make their conditions worse. Triggers may include sadness and/or anxiety related to grief and loss, strained relationships, or not being able to be with family members, etc. Even the colder weather and less sunlight can impact mental health during the winter, Williams said.

Pastor Deland Shorter of Double Spring Baptist Church and Pastor Billie Cox of Macedonia Baptist Church, both in Rockdale, said they would work with Williams to organize pastors from throughout the county to bring awareness to the issue—and to share resources. They are planning a meeting with clergy for sometime in January.

Another suggestion during the symposium was to develop a clear view of how to navigate “the system,” specifically resources that are readily available to Rockdale residents.

“People need to know where to find the services and what costs are associated with them, if there are any,” said Janice Morris, outreach services coordinator for Oakhurst Medical Center and COO for Helping Hands Free Clinic. “It’s important that just as we ring the bell for the Salvation Army, we need to ring the bell to make them aware of mental health issues.”

Lt. Dennis Pass of the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office discussed using an app to locate available services and ways to work with local media outlets to get the word out about services for both, adults and children, as well as training for volunteers who are on the frontlines.

Help Is Here:

On Jan. 28, Rockdale County Public Schools will host a Youth Mental Health First Aid course at the Rockdale Career Academy. The eight-hour course is free, but participants must register. There is limited space. Contact Susan Paul-Smith at to register.

Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) is a one to three hour free training for adults on suicide prevention that can be scheduled through Susan Paul-Smith or Jennifer Wilds:  or

View Point Health (24-Hour Access): Call 678-209-2411 or visit

Georgia Crisis & Access Line: 1-800-715-4225 (24/7 access)

National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK

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