Mental Health Overview and Resources in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia
Athens-Clarke County is a consolidated city-county located about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta in the state of Georgia. The U.S. Census Bureau reports its 2017 estimated population at 125,691 residents, which makes Athens the sixth largest city in Georgia. The city is also home to The University of Georgia, one of the top higher education institutions in the United States attended by 37,606 students as of Fall 2017.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the median household income in Athens at $32,959, a number approximately $20,000 lower than the median income in both Georgia and the United States. This statistic is most likely impacted by the large student population, which may be unemployed or working low-paying, part-time jobs while attending school. Additionally, the Census Bureau reports that a staggering 35.5% of Athens-Clarke County’s residents live below the poverty line. In comparison, 14.9% of Georgia’s population and 12.3% of all United States residents fall in this category. Low income is usually a telltale sign of individuals’ inability to afford essential health care, including mental health services.
Mental Health Concerns in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia
The 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment prepared by St. Mary’s Health Care System in Athens identifies mental health and substance abuse as top community health needs in the 17 counties served by its facilities, including Clarke County. The Assessment further reports that in Clarke County alone 17.89% of the Medicare-enrolled population has been diagnosed with depression. This number is slightly higher than the percentages for both the state of Georgia and the United States. County Health Rankings and Roadmaps also reports that Clarke County residents experience on average 4.3 days of poor mental health in a month, compared to 3.1 days in the top performing counties in the U.S.
Poor mental health refers to experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or other emotional problems rather than more serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. This definition however does not mean that such conditions should be taken lightly as they can impact every aspect of an individual’s life just as other mental illnesses. Depression and stress can interfere with one’s performance at work or school, and can negatively affect personal relationships and overall outlook on life. In some instances such feelings can lead to other health problems, substance abuse, self harm, and even suicide. As a matter of fact, the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment identifies suicide and mental disorders caused by substance abuse as two of the top 10 causes of death among adults in Clarke County. These findings only emphasize the importance of reaching out for help for yourself or a loved one who may be experiencing mental health crisis.
Access to Mental Health Care in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia
According to County Health Rankings, the ratio of residents to mental health providers in Clarke County is 400:1. While this ratio falls a little short of the top performing counties in the United States, it is significantly better than the 830 residents to 1 provider ratio for the state of Georgia.
The Athens-Clarke County unified government refers local residents in need of mental or emotional health services to two organizations – Advantage Behavioral Health and Athens Behavioral Medicine. Advantage Behavioral Health is a Community Service Board offering care for mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues to residents of Northeast Georgia. It provides counseling, therapy, substance abuse treatment, and other programs for adults, children and adolescents. Athens Behavioral Medicine offers a wide spectrum of services including psychiatric evaluations, medication management, cognitive behavioral therapy, and individual and group therapy. It can assist with conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, developmental disorders, learning disabilities, mood disorders and ADHD.
In addition to these organizations, Athens-Clarke County is also home to many private mental and behavioral health service providers. If you choose to work with one of these professionals, you should consider the following questions:
- Do they have experience with treating patients with your condition?
- Were they successful with treatment?
- What feedback have past patients left online?
- Do they accept your insurance?
- Do they offer sliding scale fees for low income residents?
- Do they accept new patients and have available appointments?
Our directory features some of the top counselors and therapists practicing in the Athens-Clarke County area that are able to help you or a loved one with a variety of emotional and behavioral problems on your quest to better mental health.