For Immediate Release September 30, 2021

Drawing attention to mental health. That's the goal behind a brand-new series of animated public service announcements (PSAs) entitled "Bring it Up," which focuses on the importance of talking about mental health as well as seeking help.

The 30-second animations were produced internally and just released by the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health (UM UCH) and its partner organization, the Klein Family Harford Crisis Center. Each spot ends with a clear call to action to get in touch with the Bel Air-based Klein Family Harford Crisis Center at 800-NEXT-STEP.

"The pandemic has had a devastating impact on our mental health," said Jennifer Redding, LCSW-C, Executive Director of Behavioral Health at UM UCH, a role that includes overseeing the Klein Family Harford Crisis Center. "Just look into the eyes of our frontline teams and you can see their anguish. Caring for COVID-positive patients around the clock has been both physically and emotionally draining."

It's not just anecdotal evidence either. Numerous studies have found that COVID has resulted in an increase in anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping and other mental health concerns in health care workers. In one study from Mental Health America, 75% of healthcare workers who responded were emotionally overwhelmed and 55% questioned their career path. As for the general population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly four in 10 adults in the U.S. reported having symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic in 2020, up from just one in 10 who reported the same symptoms the year prior.

"This campaign was initially designed to help our frontline teams at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, but we quickly realized that the community could benefit from these messages as well," said Lyle Sheldon, FACHE, UM UCH's President and Chief Executive Officer, which is why the PSAs will be running on local television in Harford County.

The three PSAs are:

"Conversation About Mental Health" stresses asking friends and loved ones about their mental health. "We regularly say, 'How are you?' But we need to dive deeper and ask specific questions about mental health. Candid conversations can actually help stop someone who is considering suicide," said Redding.

"Physical Health vs Mental Health" focuses on how mental health is an illness that needs treatment just like a broken foot or toothache. It might not be visible, but it needs medical attention. "Unfortunately, mental illness still has a negative stigma and misconceptions surrounding it," said Redding. "But we need to treat it just as a physical ailment or injury—with urgency, legitimacy and seriousness."

"Crisis Comes in All Shapes/Sizes" talks about how a crisis comes in all shapes and sizes. Some people are reluctant to seek help because they think their problem is too small. "When it comes down to it, if something is disrupting your daily routine, making you anxious, causing you to stop eating and sleeping, then it's time to get help. It's a big deal to you and that's all that matters," said Redding.

"Getting help can be as easy as picking up the phone," Redding added. "If we continue to bring up mental health, then we help drop the stigma around it and more importantly, we help save and improve lives. So please talk about mental health. Please bring it up."

The Crisis Center, established in 2019, offers 24/7 care for mental health and addiction with a hotline, a mobile crisis team, an urgent care walk-in clinic, residential services, and certified peer recovery specialists available to help with navigating systems of care and accessing needed support.