Mental Health Illness on the Rise in West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - West Virginia University researcher Joy Buck says mental health issues are often not addressed because of the stigma often attached to mental health.

Buck says it's important to focus on these issues as they're currently on the rise in the eastern panhandle.

"There is a rise in substance abuse to the region and a lot of behavioral health issues like depression, bipolar, they are complicated issues on the rise," says Buck.

Buck says it's difficult to pin point an exact cause for the increase.

"They're complicated so it's hard to tell what is the underlying cause of it. But when you see the economic down turn, that's one of the reasons," explains Buck.

Officials with the Behavior Health Services at the Berkeley Medical Center say the key to mental health is addressing mental health issues as early as possible.

"The important issue is we begin to look at mental health issues before they become mental health problems and before they progress to mental health illnesses," says Katherine Weiss of the Berkeley Medical Center.

Buck says one possible cause for the increase of mental illness is due to many people going untreated because their insurance doesn't cover behavioral issues.

She adds that treatment may also be delayed because providers are not readily available.

"Providers are pretty well booked and it's hard to get an appointment," says Buck.

The good news is, Buck and Weiss agree many health organizations are working together to figure out a solution as to how treatment can become more accessible to those suffering from mental health illnesses in the region.

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