Many of us know someone who takes medication for depression or maybe even anxiety. What many people are not familiar with is that when someone’s anxiety or depression or mental health gets severe, it affects the entire family. The reality is that this is not that unusual and this is why:
• Mental illness affects one of four people.
• Mental illness affects the entire family.
• Early identification and interventions are key, but mental health issues often go undetected.
Meet the Bethel family, grandmother and grandson. Not only does the grandson receive mental health services but the grandmother used to work for the mental health authority to provide help and services to individuals affected by mental illness. Only now, she has been affected by a major mental illness and needs help. Through her efforts to find help and find the National Alliance on Mental Illness Gulf Coast, here is what we know so far:
• The road to recovery is real, yet in the state of Texas, many barriers remain.
• Resources are scarce and families and individuals affected by mental illness need support.
• NAMI gets it. We’ve been there.
• Family and individual education and support must be available to those in need.
• Families affected by mental illness need our help.
• Millions of Americans face the day-to-day reality of caring for a family member living with mental illness. It can be overwhelming.
• The reality is that when families get support — from many directions and programs — outcomes in all areas are improved.
• Families don’t always know where to go to get help or how to cope.
• Education and support programs for families affected by mental illness have the power to change lives for the better.
As Americans, we must embrace a sustained effort to ensure solutions to our mental health crisis. Violent tragedies should not have to occur before the country realizes that mental health care must be a priority. Most people living with mental illness are not violent, but when tragedies do occur, it often is because something went wrong in the mental health care system.
In the 2010 census, the population in Galveston County was 291,302. That means that there are 72,825 people affected by mental illness and 24,275 people in Galveston County may be seeking treatment within a year.
In the 2010 census, the population in Brazoria County was 313,166. That means that there are 78,291 people in Brazoria County affected by mental illness and 26,097 people in Brazoria County who may be seeking treatment within a year.
We must prioritize the promotion and availability of early intervention, treatment services and supports for individuals and families. We must intervene earlier and ensure that essential mental health services and treatment are available at the earliest stages.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Gulf Coast applauds the recent efforts of our state representatives who have worked to increase mental health funding. But there is still a lot of work to be done.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Gulf Coast represents the thousands of families in Galveston and Brazoria counties affected by mental illness. We represent parents, individuals and families. We get it. We’ve been there. It’s time to make a difference. It’s time to take action.
Jeanette Taylor is the executive director of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.