Paolo del Vecchio says he suffered from mental illness and addiction, and at one point considered suicide. But del Vecchio who now works with the federal Substance Abuse and Metal Health Services Administration, says he found that by giving back to others he could help himself. (Correction: see below)
del Vecchio, who is Director of the Center for Mental Health Services for SAMHSA, will be the keynote speaker Friday May 4th at the Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Celebration and Breakfast. (An earlier verison of this story gave the wrong day for del Vecchio's appearance in Kalamazoo). He spoke with WMUK’s Gordon Evans.
Reflecting on his own experience, del Vecchio says he brings “a lot of hats” to his work. del Vecchio says recovery is possible, and people can live a full life if they can be properly treated for mental illness. He says there have been dramatic changes in how the nation addresses mental illness and mental health. del Vecchio says while there is much greater awareness, there is also more work to do to ensure people get proper treatment.
Even with greater awareness about mental illness, del Vecchio says stigma continues to stop people from seeking care they need. He says one alarming figure is the increased rates of depression among youth. del Vecchio says there is a theory that social media may be contributing to the increase. But he says monitoring social media can also give clues that someone is struggling with mental illness.
As health care policy continues to be a source of debate, del Vecchio says insurance coverage for mental health is not on par as of yet with coverage for physical health. He says the best treatment is an individualized holistic approach. Del Vecchio says while medicine and psychotherapy are important, factors such as housing and employment also have an impact on mental well-being.
If someone is in crisis, del Vecchio says they should call the national suicide prevention lifeline (800-273-8255). But he says they can also talk to their primary care doctor to find a specialist if it’s needed. del Vecchio says there is a business and economic case for addressing mental health. He says the cost of sick days and people not being able to work because of mental health is in the billions of dollars.