Do you feel stressed, depressed, or overwhelmed?  Well you are not alone.  Estimates show that only 17 percent of all U.S. adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health and emotional well-being.  Mental, emotional, and behavioral issues, especially among young people, have enormous personal, family, and societal costs.  The annual cost of these disorders was estimated in 2007 to be $247 billion. An estimated one in 5 (or 46 million) people aged 18 or older in the United States had any mental illness in the past year. These issues are not just faced by adults.  In any given year, the percentage of young people with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders is estimated to be between 14 and 20 percent.  Among adults reporting a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder during their lifetime, more than half report that the disorder started in childhood or adolescence.  Mental, emotional, and behavioral health refers to the overall psychological well-being of individuals and includes the presence of positive characteristics, such as the ability to manage stress, demonstrate flexibility under changing conditions, and bounce back from adverse situations. Poor mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being can lead to a variety of problems including substance abuse and suicide. 


Prevention, early intervention, and mental health promotion can help assure the health of young children and adolescents. There are several core concepts behind the science of prevention and promotion. Prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders requires a shift in focus.  Instead of addressing a disorder after it occurs, prevention means supporting the healthy development of young people starting at birth. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. Young people who grow up in good physical health are likely to also have good mental health; similarly, good mental health contributes to good physical health.  Successful prevention must involve many different groups, including informed parents, professional educators (e.g., elementary school teachers), as well as mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals.  Promotion of mental health is essential throughout a young person’s developmental life cycle – from the earliest years of life through adolescence and young adulthood – as well as in a variety of settings such as families, schools,

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neighborhoods, and communities.


Over the past week, Union County has recognized some of the main issues we face related to substance abuse and mental health.  To truly impact these issues, we must create a positive environment by focusing on these key elements: create and maintain a safe and secure environment, which includes making children feel valued and comfortable with sharing their problems; ensure positive educational experiences both at home and in school; parents need to be sure that they communicate effectively and often with their child; and limit the presence of alcohol and cigarettes and do not use illicit drugs.  These items have long term, negative consequences for emotional health.  Everyone knows someone.  Preventing substance abuse and promoting mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being makes communities stronger and healthier. It’s something all of us benefit from and something we can all contribute to. We are the ones who can make a difference in Union County through small, yet important actions in our daily lives.


Funded by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), Prevention Links will coordinate over the next four years The Health and Wellness Coalition of Union County (HAWC).  The HAWC is a regional coalition serving Union County whose mission is to assess the needs of Union County in order to enhance collaboration and coordinate prevention efforts that foster a drug free lifestyle and create healthy communities.  The HAWC’s vision is by 2017; the Health and Wellness Coalition of Union County will create prevention prepared communities through a collaborative effort to reduce underage drinking, marijuana use, the use of opioids, prescription drugs and new and emerging drugs across the lifespan throughout Union County.   To become a member of the HAWC, please contact Michael Capko at 732-381-4100 or