ECU Health hosts 12th annual Mental Health Expo

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Here in Eastern Carolina, one healthcare system held its annual mental health expo to connect the community with important resources.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. That figure makes mental health an important component of overall health.

The CDC said that every bit of physical activity helps when dealing with stress. Jennifer Franklin is studying clinical counseling at ECU and says walking her dog helps with her mental health.

“Just getting outside and kinda relaxing a little bit, getting out of your headspace is a great way to deal,” Franklin said.

ECU Health hoped to offer more mental health resources Tuesday at their mental health expo.

“There’s a wide variety of resources that are available in the county and in the region that people who have specific needs might not be aware of and this is their chance to learn about the who, what, when, where, and why,” Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Chair Dr. Michael Lang said.

Attendees were able to learn about a variety of topics, including maintaining balance by incorporating daily stress reduction techniques and understanding addiction as a disease.

The event featured more than 40 exhibitors from different service organizations.

Onica Royal said it was important for her to come and see what resources are available in her own backyard.

“It’s good to be equipped with that information so we know what to do in a crisis situation or any other type of situation and that we’re not afraid of it,” Royal said. “When we’re equipped with information, that makes us less afraid.”

Dr. Lang said humans are not designed to be isolated and COVID-19 forced people to be isolated, causing many mental health problems.

“Substance abuse got worse, domestic violence got worse, depression got worse, anxiety got worse,” Dr. Lang said. “Everything got worse across the board. People lost access to care, they lost access to their supports, and now we’re still digging out of the hole.”

Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. David Ryan said that although mental health is a tough subject to talk about, events like the expo help foster change.

“People can learn it’s nothing to be ashamed of and there are really wonderful things we can do, and resources to improve people’s mental health and get treatment.”

According to Dr. Ryan, for the first time since 2018, the number of overdose deaths in the U.S. decreased in 2023. While he said there is still a long way to go, this shows the tide of addictions and mental health is finally starting to turn.

Click here for a list of mental health resources available.