Approximately a million adults in Texas live with serious mental illness, and many of them face numerous obstacles in obtaining the treatment and support they need to manage their conditions. In a 2017 report, the Texas House Select Committee on Mental Health wrote that mental health “is absolutely one of the most critical areas of concern” facing our state. Below are some key points to understand about mental health in Texas, including some major challenges and one big reason to be hopeful.
Stigma prevents Texans from speaking up and seeking help.
Misconceptions and stereotypes about mental illness often prevent those suffering from mental disorders from seeking care or sharing their experiences with others. Texas State of Mind reports that even though over three quarters of Texans say they have a close friend or family member who has experienced a mental health issue, nine in 10 say it’s harder to talk about mental health than a physical disorder. Approximately the same number (88 percent) agree that the stigma surrounding mental health needs to be reduced to make it easier for those who are struggling to seek treatment.
Access to care is severely lacking.
According to Mental Health America, Texas ranks 49th among all the states in the U.S. in access to care, which measures access to insurance, access to treatment, quality and cost of insurance, access to special education and workforce availability. Nearly a quarter of our state’s residents are uninsured, and over 60 percent of adults living with mental illnesses didn’t receive treatment. Often, this lack of access means that individuals who need care only receive it through emergency rooms or correctional facilities, neither of which are equipped to effectively provide the ongoing treatment necessary to help those living with serious mental illnesses pursue recovery.
Texas ranks nearly last in mental health funding.
Texas ranks almost dead last among states in funding for mental health. It spends just over $40 per person per year on behavioral health services, compared to the national average of approximately $119 per person nationwide, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This limited funding contributes to the lack of access to mental health care in our state, and tends to have the greatest impact on many of those who most need mental health services.
Texas needs more mental health professionals—soon.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission reports that over 80 percent of our state’s counties are Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas, meaning that there are more than 30,000 residents for every behavioral health worker. A report by Merritt Hawkins found that 185 of Texas’ 254 counties lack even one general psychiatrist. In addition, over a third of Texas psychiatrists are over age 55, and as they retire this shortage is expected grow.
A few organizations are seeking to make a difference in the lives of Texans living with mental illnesses.
Although access to care is a multifaceted challenge in Texas, there are organizations throughout our state that are working to improve the lives of those who struggle with mental health challenges. The Well Community is among them. Founded in 2002, The Well started as a basic outreach to a handful of people, but now has grown into a flourishing, significant ministry among adults recovering from serious mental illnesses in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas. The Well’s philosophy of care, relational interventions and holistic rehabilitation combine to make a significant impact for those struggling daily with mental health challenges. The Well Community is the only direct service faith-based organization in the Dallas area that addresses such needs.
In addition to The Well Community and organizations mentioned above, other Dallas-area organizations, such as NAMI Dallas, MHA of Greater Dallas and the Planned Living Assistance Network (PLAN) of North Texas help those in our community who are dealing with mental health challenges find connection, support and resources, as well as raise awareness about mental illnesses and the needs of those who live with them.
Despite the inadequate mental health services in Texas, your support of The Well Community helps us to provide services, faith-based support and effective interventions. Together we can address stigma and offer care to a few hundred of our neighbors. Will you join us? Donate now!