If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide, the Forward Times has a message for you…You are NOT alone!
That’s right! If you are reading this, it is important for you to know that you are not alone in your quest to get help and assistance to effectively identify and manage your mental health.
As we conclude our fourth and final article for the month of May regarding mental illness, the Forward Times wants to continue to emphasize the importance of recognizing mental health challenges and identifying the necessary resources available to address mental illness, especially amongst our youth.
It is challenging to wrap our minds around what would make anyone want to take their lives, especially when an 8 to 10 year old child wants to commit suicide.
Did you know that in Texas, approximately one million adults are affected by a serious mental illness and half a million children suffer from a severe emotional disturbance?
In addition to that, the state of Texas ranks 50 out of 51 in overall access to mental health care, according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.
That’s right! Currently in the Lone Star State, only 1 in 7 Texas children with major depression receive consistent treatment, which is almost half the national average.
According to experienced mental health expert Dr. Janice Beal, depression in children is often presented differently than in adults.
“Children usually don’t sit down and state that they are depressed so it will first be seen in their behavior and may not be initially misdiagnosed,” said Dr. Beal, President of Beal Counseling Associates and Beal Behavioral Health. “The need to self-harm can result from the lack of coping skills. Children may be in bad situations at home or school and it’s a cry for help. Genetics may also play a part in their moods. The finality of death is often different for young children. How they attempt suicide may also be different.”
Dr. Beal has more than 28 years of professional experience as a clinician, treating the emotional needs of children and adolescents.
Regarding children, Dr. Beal states that parents need to know their family history as it relates to mental health, as well as look for a change in their child’s behavior. She states that parents should also notice whether their child is acting out or whether they have stopped doing the things that they used to do. She believes these are some indicators that something needs to be investigated.
“It is important that parents have open communication and encourage their children to talk about how they are feeling,” said Dr. Beal. “Parents need to look at the movies and shows their children are watching. Parents need to always check their children’s social media accounts, because social media has a major impact on behavior and choices.”
Dr. Beal believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely contributed to the rise in mental health challenges and increase in suicides amongst youth.
But the question on the table for today’s youth is, where can these young people go for help?
According to Dr. Beal, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for mental health services increased and many mental health professionals realized that they had to take care of their own mental health. She states that as a result, many mental health professionals began to limit the number of people they would accept, which has made it somewhat difficult to find mental health professionals to deal with the ever-increasing number of people seeking help with their mental health challenges.
Dr. Beal also wants to debunk the myth that drugs are addictive and contribute to the challenges someone with mental illness faces.
“Psychotropic medications that are given to children and adolescents are not addictive,” said Dr. Beal. “The recommended earliest age has been four years before anyone prescribed medication. Mental health issues that are treated with medication address a chemical imbalance. Some people get upset when they read the labels because of the reported side effects. All medications have a side effect. It is important that they maintain a relationship with the treating psychiatrist and report the symptoms. They are medical doctors and do this professionally.”
Dr. Beal acknowledges and applauds the shift that many places of worship have taken to address the rise in mental illness challenges in the community and encourages more to do the same.
Bishop James Dixon, pastor of Community of Faith in Houston, believes that the community needs more education and mental health care awareness so that society can overcome the stigmas associated with mental illness.
“Firstly, a person struggling with mental illness or depression or having thoughts of suicide should immediately connect with and confide in someone who loves them, because isolation is extremely dangerous for people struggling with mental health issues,” said Bishop Dixon. “Secondly, seeking spiritual support from a reputable source can be very helpful. Churches often have counseling services and ministries that can assist by providing assistance from a faith-based perspective. Thirdly, professional mental health care is absolutely recommended. Too often people feel ashamed and embarrassed to ask for and to seek professional mental healthcare. This is especially true in the Black community. Mental health is vital for a victorious life!”
Dr. Beal states that addressing mental illness is critical and wants the community to know that there are several resources that young people and parents can turn to for help.
“Free mental health services are provided through the Harris Center, which is formerly known as the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority (MHMRA),” said Dr. Beal. “Parents can call and schedule an appointment. Services may be offered on a sliding fee scale for people in private practice and for those who accept Medicaid. There are many other agencies that provide services as well.”
Dr. Beal also strongly recommends The Steve Fund, which is dedicated to supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
As we conclude our focus on mental health during the month of May as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Forward Times wants to encourage you or anyone you know who needs mental health information, resources, or advice, to please contact either of the following agencies for assistance:
The Steve Fund
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Although we are concluding this series on mental health for the month of May, the Forward Times will continue to provide resources and relevant content for our readers as often as we come across it and feel the need to share it with our readers.