Conference focuses on mental health resources and access - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Conference focuses on mental health resources and access

WACO, TX (KXXV) -

The Gil Taylor Foundation hosted a Behavioral Health Symposium focused on mental health Saturday.

Professionals from Baylor University and Baylor Scott and White spoke to community leaders on the importance of mental health awareness. 

Matthew S. Stanford is the CEO of the Hope and Healing Center & Institute (HHCI) in Houston. At the conference, he spoke on some of the disconnects in the flaws in the current system.

"A system that is unable to access and care for the people that it's been put together for clearly isn't effective." Dr. Stanford said. He surmised the issues in Mental Health care to the three A's: Affordability, Accessibility, and Acceptability. 

"There's a lot of stigma. The two biggest things that keep people from getting care are stigma or shame and finances. So we simply as a culture or society don't treat mental health problems the same as physical problems. In many instances, people question whether they are real or not which causes people to not seek out the care they so desperately need," Dr. Stanford said.

In the state of Texas, 185 counties are without any mental health care providers. In their place, they often turn to teachers pastors and other leaders.

The Dean of the Diana Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University, Dr. John Singletary, said that's part of the reason the conference was so crucial in giving them the tools to reach those who seek help. 

"We are educating as many community leaders as we can about mental health so when people turn to them saying to them I'm struggling with anxiety or depression whatever their concern may be that these leaders are more equipped to be able to hear the concerns and provide the care they may need," Dr. Singletary said. 

With 60 percent of those with mental illness receiving no treatment the consequences are severe. Experts say in 44 states the largest psychiatrist facility is prison. That's why Dr. Stanford says mental health is a community issue. 

"One out of every four families is struggling with a mental health issue in the family, so that's virtually all of us so this isn't an us and them issue. It's an us issue. I think we can do better to care for these people that are really struggling and I think the good news is people who do access care the vast majority of them get better." Stanford said.

Copyright 2016 KXXV. All rights reserved.

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