After the unprecedented stress and isolation of that last 15 months, mental health has come to the forefront of many discussions about overall health. Now is the time for everyone to recognize the importance of mental health and come together to break the stigma around depression, anxiety and other mental health struggles.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, mental health is an important component of our focus on overall health. We create, lead and invest in programs that teach and promote healthy living, prevent family violence and provide healthcare to those who need it most—each of which has a mental health component.
For our North Texas neighbors, good physical and mental health is foundational for a happy, successful life. It affects everything from how well a child can learn to whether an adult can achieve financial stability. Health truly is one of the building blocks of opportunity.
As we reflect on the importance of mental health, let’s take a closer look at the latest statistics—particularly in the wake of COVID-19—plus how United Way of Metropolitan Dallas invests in mental health in North Texas, and how you can get involved.
People with Mental Illness Are Not Alone
Many people may be reluctant to talk about mental health, but it’s a topic that impacts nearly all Americans, whether personally or through someone they know. Consider these statistics from National Alliance on Mental Illness:
- One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
- One in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year.
- One in six American youth (ages 6 to 17) experience a mental health disorder each year.
- Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34.
For many Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic brought mental health center stage, as more people dealt with depression, anxiety and other behavioral health challenges than ever before. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, during the pandemic 41 percent of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from 11 percent in 2019.
Due to worry and stress over the coronavirus, Americans reported experiencing difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance abuse, and worsening chronic conditions.
For many, these statistics won’t come as a surprise. After all, most Americans faced significant and unprecedented stress during the height of the pandemic, including worries over the virus itself, as well as job losses, school closures, financial insecurity and more. Meanwhile, people weren’t able to connect with family and friends, or enjoy many of their favorite activities, like they would in a typical year. As a result, COVID-19 has been a perfect storm of mental health challenges.
Ending the Stigma
Although mental illnesses and disorders are extremely common, society still views many mental health problems in a negative light. During Mental Health Awareness Month, and throughout the year, it’s important that we all work to combat this stigma and ensure that no one feels alone in their struggle with mental health.
When people share their own mental health experiences and support others who are struggling, people affected by mental illness will feel better supported and understood. In the meantime, we can all support organizations that work to improve mental health in our community through healthy living initiatives.
And remember, just because certain aspects of life are returning to normal, the pandemic’s impact on mental health may last for years—or even a generation. As we all work to adjust to this new and ever-changing way of life, be sure to check out our tips for staying mentally healthy.
United Way Supports Mental Health Initiatives
United Way Dallas has identified mental health as a key focus area—particularly as our neighbors recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We create and lead a variety of programs to ensure the health and well-being of North Texans, including our newest initiative, the Health Innovation Technology Challenge. The social innovation competition is a new way for us to identify and support game-changing solutions to local community health challenges, and a big focus of the challenge will be improving mental health. The competition will be held this fall, so be on the lookout for details.
Our health programming also includes the Healthy Zone School Program (HZSP), which helps schools create sustainable healthy environments that support students’ physical activity, social/emotional learning and healthy eating. Our goal with HZSP is to give students the skills and knowledge they need to go on to lead healthy, active lives.
Since it began in 2011, HZSP has been a huge success, with 177 schools participating and more than 145,000 students being positively impacted by the program.
To build on that success, the goal of HZSP has evolved following COVID-19. Not surprisingly, the pandemic prompted many children to engage in less physical activity. Meanwhile, their need for social emotional learning increased. In response to this shift, HZSP now includes schools that work to address students’ mental and behavioral wellbeing, as well as their physical health. This will ensure that the needs of North Texas students are being met in a holistic way.
In addition to our HZSP initiative, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas also supports mental health in our region through several community impact grants. Our partners in this area include Parkland’s Behavioral Health Expansion Program, which provides critical support to enhance substance abuse and counseling services for the highest-risk patients. The program works to help substance abuse patients continue in recovery by building a continuum of care and link to resources both in and out of the hospital and provide counseling services for victims of trauma, domestic abuse, and sexual assault in neighborhoods where those resources do not exist.
Our community impact grantees also include Child and Family Guidance Center, which for 125 years has provided trauma-informed mental and behavioral healthcare to North Texans of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay. The center offers everything from diagnosis to therapy and medication management from board-certified psychiatrists and licensed counselors. They help tens of thousands of North Texans each year recover from trauma caused by abuse, severe neglect and poverty, empowering them to turn their lives around.
During the stress of the pandemic, Child and Family Health Guidance Center has worked closely with students who are experiencing mental health challenges. As one parent named April explains, “My son was struggling with grades, attention and getting along with others. We didn’t know where else to turn, and without insurance our options seemed limited. [The Child and Family Health Guidance Center] gave us the time and attention necessary to understand our situation and prescribe the appropriate medications. I have my son back.”
Child and Family Health Guidance Center recognizes the importance of supporting children’s mental health during a tumultuous time. Check out their new Safety Net News video for more insights and tips on keeping kids happy and (mentally) healthy in the wake of COVID-19.
You Too Can Join the Movement
After the devastation of COVID-19, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is as committed as ever to ensuring the health of every North Texan. For our neighbors of all ages, that means promoting mental health as well as physical and social wellness.
Interested in joining the movement? You can be a part of the change by:
- Donating today to support our programs and grants that encourage mental health
- Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts so you can advocate for policies and legislation that support and fund mental health initiatives
Together, we can ensure all North Texans lead long, healthy lives.
This article was published on: Jun 8, 2021