Talking about mental health may not be easy for many, but mental health professionals, like Tropical Texas Behavioral Health’s community relations coordinator, Raquel Rosales, say it’s something that affects a lot of people in the Rio Grande Valley and the rest of the nation.

“The numbers here in the valley are actually on par with the national average, which is one in five adults, as well as one in five children ages 13 to 17 are suffering with a severe mental illness,” said Rosales.

One of the barriers in treatment for those with a mental condition is that they don’t seek help.

“On average a person takes up to ten years between the time that they start to notice their problems and the time they actually get their treatment. About 60% of the people that have a severe mental illness didn’t receive any type of treatment in the last year,” said Rosales.

There are a few reasons why some people with a mental condition don’t seek help.

“A big one is definitely stigma. A fear that they may be judge, not understood, or accepted. A fear that people may look at them differently. So that definitely plays a large role,” said Rosales.

There are also others who don’t seek help because they either don’t have health benefits, or their health benefits don’t cover mental health.

That’s why facilities like TTBH, help people apply for benefits offered by county or state programs.

Most of the time, the biggest barrier for access to mental health for some is lack understanding.

“The lack of understanding of the individual of what’s going on with them is the biggest barrier. They ask themselves, is this something that’s normal because everyone goes through stress? Or is this now affecting me where I need to see somebody about it, and I feel like not a lot of people know the difference,” said Rosales.

There is also a high demand for mental health professionals in the valley.

“Unfortunately, there is a shortage of mental health professionals here in the Rio Grande Valley, especially psychiatrists. So that’s one of those barriers that we’re facing. Tropical is trying hard to attract mental health professionals, so that more people want to come to this field and can help our growing population and the growing need here in the valley,” said Rosales.

Along with attracting more mental health professionals to the area, there are other things that need to happen in the valley to improve the situation for people with a mental condition.

“I think we need a lot more education for children and parents at a young age, and at the school level, where they’re learning in school as part of their curriculum that mental health is important, just like they learn that their physical health is important, but also that their parents are involved in these conversations. Parents need to learn what are some of the warning signs that they need to look out for and how to protect their children. Children that go through adversity, early in childhood are more likely to face mental health challenges and health problems later on in life as adults,” said Rosales.

For some mental health professionals, it’s important for the valley to have a more open mind to mental illnesses as well as addiction, and try to gain some more understanding where those with a mental condition are coming from.

In 2017, TTBH served more than 31,000 clients throughout Hidalgo and Cameron county.