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Open Conversation: What is Mental Health?

Posted at 7:19 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 12:55:30-04

WACO, Texas — There are more than 200 recognized mental illnesses and studies show roughly one in five people deal with at least one every day.

Despite how common this is, for many people, it's still really hard to talk about or even to understand what exactly mental health is.

"Mental health and mental illness has been very stigmatized," Dr. Emma Church with the Waco Therapy and Holistic Wellness Services said. "People were afraid to go to therapy, afraid to be seen going into a therapist's office."

A new generation of social media users is working to break the stigma and make these topics easier to discuss.

"It's really becoming normalized, which I think is incredibly helpful," Dr. Church said. "Maybe it's what's going on culturally right now with COVID that people are coming to terms with the fact that everyone struggles."

A study from the Mental Health Foundation shows 44.8 percent of U.S. adults received mental health services in the last year. That number is higher for women at 49.7 percent, whereas only 36.8 percent of men sought services.

The report also showed people over 50 were most likely to find help with 47.2 percent saying they had and those least likely to ask for it was young adults between 18 to 25 at just 38.9 percent.

"There's a growing kind of awareness that therapy is important and needed and you don't have to wait until you're depressed or you can't get out of bed or leave your house because you're so anxious, but something you can do for self-improvement and self-care," Dr. Church said.

The Heart of Texas Behavioral Network has been working to make mental health care more accessible for people in Central Texas.

"We want to make sure we are offering accessible caring and responsive support services for families and individuals who are coping with mental illness, development delays, substance use, development disabilities, and emotional conflict," Heart of Texas Behavioral Network Representative Vince Erickson said.

The network has been growing rapidly over the last few years. Now with 12 facilities serving six counties, they are able to connect community members with any type of aid they might need.

"We can find out how we can help them with other resources available in the community, like housing, like food," Erickson said. "We can make sure we coordinate with partners in the community to not only get people seen but get them better."

For anyone not quite ready to reach out for professional help just yet, friends and family can offer support with one simple step.

"Listen so hard it hurts," Erickson suggested. "Listen. Often times people just need that listening ear to know they are not alone."

People struggling with their mental health truly are not alone. Americans reported the worst mental health in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a study by Statista, 33 percent of Americans said they had trouble dealing with stress, depression, and anxiety during the pandemic. Canadians and Brits tied for second, with more than one in four people there also facing the same struggles.

To get in touch with resources in Central Texas through the Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network, you can reach them at 254-752-3451 or the Crisis Hotline at 866-752-3451.

Dr. Emma Church with the Waco Therapy and Holistic Wellness Services can be reached at 254-339-1052.