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For the last 18 months or a little longer, Americans have faced the challenges of remaining healthy amid a global pandemic, that took thousands of lives and changed Americans’ behavior when it comes to our health; no longer dismissing ideas of seeking the health care when struck with a serious illness. Seeking medical help for a serious brain injury could be regarded as a no-brainer however when battling an illness within the mind, it is often treated with shame, weakness or temporary. AdventHealth Behavior Health Director Ross Gaetano says treating mental illness can’t be done until it’s recognized. “Am I feeling down?’ ‘Am I feeling depressed?’ Am I feeling withdrawn?” Gaetano says. “We need to notice the signs. when you look in the mirror, think about what you see.” According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 5 adults struggle with mental illness, while 1 in 25 struggles with serious mental illness throughout their lives. To help bring this often-avoided health problem to the forefront of discussion, education and compassion, the month of May has been deemed Mental Health Awareness Month. As we emerge from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mental tolls it has taken communities nationwide, AdventHealth Central Texas and its Behavior Health Department are focused on reducing the stigma associated with mental health and every journey must begin somewhere. “It starts at home,” says Gaetano. “We need to look at each other. We need to care for each other and that includes loved ones and friends.” Tuesday night the City of Killeen issued a proclamation that May 2022 is Mental Health Awareness Month and will continue its partnership with AdventHealth Central Texas to encourage those facing mental challenges or serious mental illness to be aware, discuss the issues, and most of all, seek professional help, without feelings of shame or fear. “Society today says we need to care for each other,” Gaetano says. “We need to recognize the signs and we need to take action.” AdventHealth Central Texas offers 24-hour evaluation and referral services as well as numerous mental health treatment options. These options include outpatient/inpatient services specifically designed to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the City of Killeen and surrounding communities served by AdventHealth Central Texas. “Let's talk about it and bring it into the open as the real illness it is,” Gaetano says. “We have no problem talking about an injury or diseases, but we have a difficult time when we talk about the mind. Healthy minds make healthy communities."