stigma of mental health


When people started talking about defunding the police, I thought, “Oh my god, why would they do that?” until I later learned that term didn’t mean completely removing funds from the department but reallocating them to other services. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, and I’m NOT here to argue any one position. But reallocating money to some services makes sense to me, especially when it comes to the mentally ill.


I remember a conversation I had very recently — a friend said she was concerned that her brother, who was mentally ill, was going to get shot by the police one day because he didn’t always follow commands and had problems distinguishing his thoughts from reality. She said she told every police officer she came across to watch out for her brother. That’s sad, but for her and her family, it’s a very real concern.

Again, I’m not saying the police are bad guys, and I’m very grateful for their service and dedication to their communities. What I am trying to say is that maybe their time would be better spent on actual criminal activity and not be spent on de-escalating situations where mentally ill persons are involved. I realize sometimes it might be needed, but there is a large number of mentally ill people incarcerated when sometimes they don’t need to be.

Mental Health America, an advocacy group, says that in the past 50 years, the U.S. has gone from institutionalizing people with mental illness to incarcerating them at unprecedented rates, putting recovery out of reach for million of Americans. On any given day, 300,000 to 400,000 people with mental illness are under “correctional control.”

This is attributed to a lack of state hospital beds in the country, as well as a lack of proper training for law enforcement officials to identify mentally ill persons (which makes sense if the situation is dangerous and they don’t have time to suss out many details).

It didn’t use to be this way, though. Back in the ’50s and ’60s there was a huge call to action for states to empty out state psychiatric facilities by fiscal conservatives, civil rights activists and others. A lot had to do with the movie, “The One That Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” because people were convinced the mentally ill were being treated inhumanely. So they were “liberated.”

But now there’s a bigger problem — jails and prisons are becoming the “new asylums” for mentally ill. In 44 states, jails/prisons with both a county jail and county psychiatric facility, more seriously mentally ill (about 3 times as many) are incarcerated than hospitalized. U.S. prisons have essentially become warehouses for the mentally ill because of the decrease of state hospital beds yet the mentally ill receive inadequate care and have poor supervision. They are more likely to commit suicide as well as more likely to be sexually assaulted (1 in 4 inmates for females; 1 in 12 for males; 1 in 33 for inmates without a mental disorder). An article on Slate.com reported that in Florida, the prison staff takes pains to ensure the mentally ill patients are fit to stand trial but once convicted, they’re cut off from all services. Naturally, a lot of the inmates’ conditions worsen while in custody.

It’s also important to note that in Florida’s Orange County Jail, the average stay for all inmates is 26 days; for mentally ill inmates, it is 51 days. In New York’s Riker’s Island, the average stay for all inmates is 42 days; for mentally ill inmates, it is 215 days.

And if that’s not appalling to you, let’s also broach the subject of money. It is very costly to house a mentally ill person. It costs about $80 per day to incarcerate inmates without a mental disorder and $130 per day for mentally ill inmates. The average per year in Texas is about $22,000 for inmates without a mental disorder and it ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 per year for mentally ill inmates. This can all be found here on the Treatment Advocacy Center website.

It’s obvious something’s not right here. I’m not saying we need to increase the number of state hospitals once again, but maybe we do. I think it’s worth a discussion.

In 2019, when I was struggling with depression so badly, I went to a privately-run psychiatric facility called The Menninger Clinic. It’s one of the best in the country, but it’s also one of the most expensive. Thankfully, my family has been able to afford it as well as medications not covered by insurance and providers who don’t accept insurance — and there are a lot.

I think I would literally be dead if I couldn’t afford my meds and the services that I have received. That’s no exaggeration.

Some aren’t that lucky.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please visit the National Alliance on Mental Health to learn more and find resources.

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Validation and Judgement

by Heather Loeb

Last week, I asked my husband and best friend if they felt my blog was repetitive. I don’t know what made me ask, but I think I already knew the answer. 


They told me I repeated a lot of material, namely how I spent time at a psychiatric facility. 

I looked over my blog posts and realized they were right. Though it’s pertinent to some of my blogs, I realized I talk about it a lot. 

I ruminated about this for a couple of days, and then it hit me: I talk about my time at The Menninger Clinic so much because a stay at a psychiatric facility must mean I’m really sick, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known I’ve been sick for years, but to others who don’t understand depression, it was validation, at least in my eyes. Depression and anxiety, while debilitating, are invisible illnesses. Unless you have a front-row seat to someone’s struggle, most don’t understand just how debilitating it can be. The stigma and stereotypes about depression have often left me feeling like I was less than, lazy or like I wasn’t trying hard enough, so I imagined others were thinking the same thing. That’s how shitty our society portrays depression (and other mental disorders).

How many of you have been brushed aside, misjudged or been treated badly because of depression? It should not be this way; we deserve better. I shouldn’t have to go to a fancy psychiatric facility for someone to only then believe I’m really sick.

More than 17 million people in the U.S. have depression. Anxiety, which often accompanies depression, is the most common mental disorder, affecting more than 40 million adults. These are not rare conditions. They should be widely understood, and the way to make that happen is to talk about it openly, disintegrating the stigma and educating others.

I know that not everybody needs educating; I’ve noticed that attitudes toward depression vary by generation. The younger generations, who are more sensitive in my opinion, are typically better at accepting the diagnosis and acknowledging depression as a legitimate disease. But the stigma still lurks, and we should still continue to fight it until there are no repercussions of admitting that you have depression. For example, telling your boss you have depression and/or anxiety. Many people keep it under wraps so they’re not judged.

And we have to stop judging ourselves. I don’t know why I would talk about going to a “mental hospital” so much, other than to prove to others that I was really sick, and that’s sad as hell. But maybe I don’t need to convince others — maybe I need to convince myself.

My struggles and pain are real. Depression is real and debilitating at times. Anxiety is real. My feelings are valid. I am not lazy — I hustle to make sure I’m maintaining my mental health. It is a full-time job, and it is exhausting. But still I hustle, because I’m strong and resilient. We all are.

To all of you who are suffering in silence or who don’t feel validated in their illness, I’m sorry. I know you’re hurting. I know it’s frustrating to fight antiquated ideas about depression. I know it’s more than the “blues.” I see you.

Keep fighting. You don’t have to prove a damned thing.

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Just in case you missed it, Dak Prescott, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, did an interview with one of his brothers this week about the suicide of their other brother, Jace Prescott.


I read the interview and I was so encouraged that Dak came forward and discussed not only suicide but also his battle with depression. This is not talked about enough, especially among male athletes. The stigma surrounding mental illness is very strong among males because of the misconception that men have to be “tough guys.”

I can’t say enough about Dak’s strength and mental toughness — his can be seen both on and off the field. There is no doubt that the interview, airing soon on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, will save lives and help others to speak out. This is especially poignant because it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

“Mental health is a huge issue and a real thing in our world right now, especially the world we live in where everything is viral and everyone is part of the media,” Dak said. “[You] can get on social media and be overcome with emotions and thoughts of other people and allow that to fill in their head when things aren’t necessarily true — whether it’s getting likes on Instagram or something being viewed or getting bullied or whatever it may be. All those things create emotions and put things in your head about yourself or your situation in life that aren’t true. I think it’s huge. I think it’s huge to talk. I think it’s huge to get help. And it saves lives.”

And it is huge. So imagine my disgust when I learned that a Fox Sports newscaster had blasted Dak yesterday.

“When it comes to the quarterback of an NFL team, you know this better than I do, it’s the ultimate leadership position in sports,” Skip Bayless said. “You are commanding an entire franchise. … But you’re commanding a lot of young men and some older men. And they’re all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of the football team. Because of all that, I don’t have sympathy for him going public with ‘I got depressed. I suffered depression early in COVID to the point where I couldn’t even go workout.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s Team.”


Skip Bayless should have sympathy. Dak is one of the most popular players in the NFL, who has never lost his focus despite his mother passing away and then his brother earlier this year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 48,000 people dying by suicide in 2008 (the most recent numbers). The suicide rate continues to climb and no doubt will shoot up while the effects of COVID are still being felt.

Skip Bayless should be ashamed of himself. Dak hasn’t lost focus because he has felt depression and suffered great losses, he has demonstrated courage, strength and he’s an example to the whole organization. He has stared the stigma of depression in the face and shown vulnerability. Not everybody can do that. But that’s who he is. He should be lauded for it, not condemned.

From what I can see, everybody has rallied behind Dak after Skip Bayless’ comments were reported. Fox Sports even apologized, which you can read below. Good job, Fox. There’s no room for hate and ignorance in this country, not anymore than there already is.

“At FOX Sports, we are proud of Dak Prescott for publicly revealing his struggle with depression and mental health,” the company said in a press release. “No matter the cause of the struggle, FOX Sports believes Dak showed tremendous courage which is evident in both his leadership on the Dallas Cowboys and in his character off the field. We do not agree with Skip Bayless’ opinion on Undisputed this morning. We have addressed the significance of this matter with Skip and how his insensitive comments were received by people internally at FOX Sports and our audience.”

It is my hope that we chip away at the stigma of depression and suicide. We do that by speaking about it. Silence only breeds more shame and nobody can heal in shame.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741.

You are no alone.

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Rep. Todd Hunter

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, which important for me. As I’ve previously written, I’ve been suicidal many, many times. I’ve been lucky enough to have a great support system and access to helpful resources. I’m alive because of that.

But others aren’t so lucky.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that there are 132 suicides EVERY DAY. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 48,000 dying in 2018 (the most recent numbers).

Again, this is a big deal. That’s why I was so pleased to be invited to Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Symposium today, which was attended by experts in the mental health field, school administrators, as well as a number of students across the Coastal Bend who are passionate in ending suicides and educating the public about suicide’s devastating impact.

Data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics says suicide was the second leading cause of death among young Americans aged 15 to 24. Between 2000 and 2007, the suicide rate among youth aged 10 to 24 was around 6.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Then the rate reached an alarming rate of 10.6 deaths per 100,000 by 2017 — a 56-percent increase in less than two decades.


We have a huge problem on our hands. That’s why I was so heartened to observe this forum. The students involved were so knowledgable about suicide and were eager to learn how to help others who are struggling. When I was younger nobody talked about it and I didn’t know to speak up when I had suicidal or intrusive thoughts. I can’t help but think my mental health journey would be dramatically different, easier, in the past 20 years if early intervention was an option.

I’m so glad that Rep. Todd Hunter has made this a priority. He has started a task force dedicated to prevention awareness and introduced bills that are crucial to data collection, preventive services and strategies in preventing suicide. I’m in awe.

“It’s time to shine a light and make a difference, ” Rep. Hunter said. “We’re not stopping here. This is the beginning.”

The forum also featured a woman who lost her son to suicide. While it was heartbreaking to hear, her story will surely help others understand the gravity of suicide and lasting effects. The mental health experts also listed local resources that I had no idea existed.

It’s so hard being a teenager, especially right now, because COVID has disrupted our lives and left a lot of people isolated and away from their support system. That’s incredibly hard, even for adults. I’m glad this issue is being addressed; I know without a doubt Mr. Hunter’s and his staff’s efforts will save lives.

I’m immensely proud that these bills and education services are coming from the Coastal Bend.

Available Resources Around the Coastal Bend:

Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center (Focused on invention in at-risk youth, connects families with community resources)

TAMUCC Counseling Clinic

Todd Hunter’s Office (if you have ideas on suicide prevention, mental illness legislation)

Follow Stop Texas Suicides Now! on Twitter

Nation-wide Resources

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741

Please know there is help available. You are never alone.

To learn more about suicide prevention, please go here. Learn how to help and what the risk factors are to suicide.

Stay in the light, friends.

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