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Erasing the stigma that is often associated with mental health issues, educating ourselves and learning about community resources that we can lean on for help are some of the things we can do to change how we look at and approach this problem which, too often, carries with it fatal consequences.

The death of actor Robin Williams Aug. 11 has put mental health issues in the public spotlight. Dr. Miguel Macaoay, chief of psychiatry and medical director of behavioral health services at Carroll Hospital Center, said depression is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S.

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Signs of depression often are noticeable for those who are close to someone, but many people even if they see the signs don't know what to do or where to turn to get help for their loved one.

Dawn Brown, director of quality assurance at the Carroll County Health Department Bureau of Prevention, Wellness and Recovery, teaches a free class at Carroll Community College called Mental Health First Aid which is designed to help people identify various types of mental health crisis and teach ways to respond.

You don't have to be a health professional to learn the basics. As Brown noted, "People are trained in CPR for how to do an intervention for someone that is having a health crisis. They don't become a health professional, but they do develop a certain comfort level."

Whether it is through classes such as the one offered by Brown, or through other methods, everyone should understand the basics of identifying and dealing with someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. Know the numbers for the various hotlines and helplines, and identify community resources that are available to help when needs arise.

We also need to adjust how we look at mental health issues. As Brown noted, "If a friend or loved one has been in the hospital for surgery, afterward, you might show up at their house with a card and a casserole. But if someone just got out from a psychiatric hospitalization, nobody is showing up with a casserole."

Williams' death and his battles with depression have brought mental health issues to the forefront of our national agenda. We should use this as a springboard to better education and greater awareness which, ultimately, may help save someone else's life down the road.

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