Written by: Shanan Spencer, LPC | Director of Health and Mental Health Initiatives
May is Mental Health Awareness Month; a month to help people understand mental health conditions, their prevalence, and resources available for healing and recovery. One of the four pillars of our mission is advocating for the overall mental health of Denton County.
Why do we focus on mental health? Simply put, the stigma and misunderstanding around mental health continue to prevent open dialog to fully address the needs of people with mental health illnesses.
Prior to the pandemic, the National Institute for Mental Health estimated that nearly one in five people are impacted by a mental health condition each year. That is roughly 188,000 people in Denton County based on population data from July 2021. And according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25% in the first year of the pandemic.
The pandemic showed us that mental health concerns don’t discriminate. Young and old were forced to stay home often isolated from friends and family. Many of us are still coping with the ramifications: anxiety, depression, hopelessness.
The result is an already overburdened system not able to keep up. Denton County is one of the lowest funded counties in the lowest funded state in the US in terms of mental health expenses per capita.
While these challenges seem insurmountable, good things are happening in Denton County.
The Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership Team (DCBHLT), powered by United Way of Denton County, works to understand and address the mental health needs of Denton County residents. The DCBHLT has successfully led initiatives to address jail diversion and veteran issues. The Team is currently addressing substance use and suicide prevention.
Another exciting initiative on the horizon is the Mental Health Navigator Program, designed to help Denton County residents navigate the process to assess mental health needs (along with contributing factors such as housing and food insecurity, and insurance) and access the resources to address those needs.
Multiple tools and information can be found on our Mental Health page for people seeking strategies to help improve their own mental health and wellness. Our Wellness Wednesday video series, Mental Health Matters panels, and resources are available to everyone.
It’s time to openly discuss and treat mental health like all other health issues. Working united, we strive to make resources and treatment more accessible as we build a healthier Denton County.