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This series by Eric Litwiller of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas looks at mental health in the Wichita area. It is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Commentary: When it comes to mental illnesses, Wichita can shift from retroactive treatment to prevention

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Mojtaba Ravanbakhsh
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Any business owner or CEO will tell you that preventing an issue on a manufacturing line or in a service process is always better than trying to fix it after it after the fact. Similarly, a doctor will tell you that preventing illness through diet, exercise, and regular check-ups is always better than trying to treat the disease after it has begun to take a toll on the body. The same is true of mental illness. Reaching children and young teens to provide them with the proper coping mechanisms to deal with their life situation now is always going to be better than trying to treat the resulting mental illness after it has affected all of us.

Every year, mental health organizations – both public and private – save the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County tens of millions of dollars in expenses and subsidies to prisons, police departments, hospital emergency rooms, and more by catching mental health issues in our youth and families before they turn into mental illnesses. And we do this even though many of these organizations receive no financial support from those government entities.

At some level, we all have a vague understanding of the toll and the cost that the most common mental illnesses take on our society. But have you ever stopped to consider how much better our city could be – especially for those struggling with their mental health – if we could prevent so many of these illnesses from occurring in the first place? With your help, Wichita can begin the slow process of shifting resource allocation away from retroactive treatment and into a proactive schedule of prevention instead.

Links to mental health resources are at MHANational.org.

Eric Litwiller is the director of development and communications at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas.