Mental health and substance abuse issues usually arise early in one's life and occur more frequently than many people think.
The statistics are eye-opening. One in five Americans will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime and half of all cases of mental illness begin before age 14 and 75 percent by age 24. For young people 15-24 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death.
Recently, various well-publicized crises have occurred on college campuses and K-12 settings arising from these problems that should make the need to address these issues more urgent.
Still people don't like to talk about it or are unaware of what resources are available, particularly in their own community, to assist with these problems. At The University of Texas-Pan American, Counseling and Psychological Services addresses the mental health issues of its students through the provision of direct services and training students, staff and faculty in recognizing signs of mental illness and suicidality.
To raise awareness further, UTPA has joined the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) statewide campaign titled "Speak Your Mind Texas," to spark community discussions about how mental health and substance abuse affect their communities. DSHS will hold 16 Community Conversations in Texas from June through August.
One of the town hall community conversations will be held at UTPA on July 14 from 6-9 p.m. in the University Ballroom. Registration is free and open to all community members. A dinner will be provided and a Spanish interpreter will be available.
Conversation participants at UT Pan American will hear welcoming remarks from Dr. Francisco Fernandez, psychiatrist and new dean of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine as well as Dr. Mari Fuentes-Martin, UTPA dean of students, before breaking into table top discussion groups touching on a wide range of issues, including the availability of affordable counseling and psychotherapy, the mental health needs of the elderly as well as college students and teens, services available for veterans and LGBT individuals, the prevention of bullying and its impact, among many others. Groups will then provide feedback to the general audience and health care professionals, counselors and DSHS organizers who will facilitate the event.
"We want to remove the stigma often associated with mental illness and explore steps that can be taken by individuals and in communities to improve mental health support," said Mauro Ruiz, DSHS program manager, Health Service Region 11. "We want to learn more about your experiences, concerns, ideas and hopes for the future."
Registration is encouraged and available at the Speak Your Mind Texas registration site.
For more information, contact UTPA's Counseling and Psychological Services at (956) 665-2574. Hear some personal stories and learn more at the Speak Your Mind Texas website.
More information also can be found on the Speak Your Mind Texas Facebook page.