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BLOOMINGTON — McLean County residents living with a mental illness or substance use disorder are not alone and a coalition of health and human services organizations is taking to social media to let people know that help is available.

"Mental health is an issue in McLean County and it's more of an issue than people realize," said Sally Gambacorta, who chairs the McLean County Community Health Council Behavioral Health Campaign Subcommittee.

"We want people to share their stories and get the help they need," said Gambacorta, director of community health at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal.

National estimates are that one in five people will experience a diagnosable mental illness and a functional impairment based on that illness in his or her lifetime. Adding in people living with substance use disorder, "we're all affected by someone facing mental illness or substance abuse," she said.

The McLean County Community Health Needs Assessment identified behavioral health (mental illness and substance use disorder) as a community need and the subsequent Community Health Improvement Plan, released last year, suggested a social media campaign to get people talking about behavioral health.

On Tuesday, the behavioral health subcommittee announced a yearlong social media campaign to educate the community about behavioral health. The subcommittee includes representatives of BroMenn, The Baby Fold, Center for Youth and Family Solutions, Chestnut Health Systems, Children's Home + Aid, Illinois State University, McLean County Center for Human Services, McLean County Health Department, OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center and Project Oz.

On the first business day of each month, one subcommittee member will put out an awareness message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and other  members will share the information on their social media platforms.

The first message on Thursday, from Chestnut, will focus on depression among women, including facts, risk factors and where help is available, Gambacorta said.

The campaign will run through the end of the year. "Hopefully, we'll continue it or expand upon it," she said.

"Our underlying message is strong individuals create strong families who create strong communities," she said. "We want people to know, 'You are not alone, help is out there and get help earlier.'"

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Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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