A Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System social worker and longtime mental health care advocate recently witnessed the signing of Arkansas’s proclamation of May as Mental Health Awareness Month by Governor Asa Hutchinson.

Lisa Southerland is the residential PTSD unit social worker. She spearheaded the proclamation project galvanized by the challenges of living through the lockdowns, physical and social distancing, and emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Achieving the proclamation signing is one of the many initiatives she has championed to improve mental health care access in Arkansas. She is the originator and caretaker of a 4,000 member Facebook group of Arkansas therapists focused on reducing barriers to care and improving the quality of mental health care in the state.

Mental Health workshops for years

She has also provided webinars and in-person workshops over the years on subjects such as trauma, child abuse and neglect, and tele-mental health, as well as provided supervision for social workers completing licensure requirements.

Above, Southerland displays the Mental Health Awareness Month proclamation.

“Living the last year in the pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health care for me,” she said. “From the fear of the virus to the collective and personal experiences of grief and loss – from not only losing people we care about, but also losing our sense of what is normal and safe – it has really taken a toll on most people I know.”

Southerland wanted to do something to bring awareness to mental health care in Arkansas and let people know they are not alone, that most people have struggled over the past year and that help is available.

“Come forward when you need help.”

“It’s important to educate people around mental health and de-stigmatize mental health care so people don’t feel embarrassment or shame about coming forward when they need help,” she added. “By talking about mental health in compassionate, de-stigmatizing ways, we normalize it and open up the dialogue for people to reach out when they need it instead of suffering alone.”

“Lisa has been a valuable resource in my career as a social worker and clinician,” said Elizabeth Deere, a Day Treatment Center social worker. “She has provided countless hours of consultation for working with children and families to other social workers and clinicians over the years. Lisa embodies this type of group as a person and as a professional in a line of work that can be stressful and tedious.”

More on the Arkansas Mental Health Awareness Month proclamation.

Arlo Taylor is a public affairs specialist in the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

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Published on May. 27, 2021

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