Mental health issues can leave people feeling isolated and ashamed. To counter misconceptions about mental illness and help connect people with resources, the Texas Department of State Health Services launched Speak Your Mind Texas, a statewide conversation about mental health that will spread the message that help is available and recovery is possible.

DSHS is working with local organizers to conduct town hall-style community conversations around Texas this summer to spark discussion about mental health and substance abuse, and plans to visit Austin on August 19.

Speak Your Mind Texas is designed to break down the stigma often associated with mental illness and emotional disturbance and remove barriers to support and treatment, particularly among teens and young adults. DSHS encourages anyone involved with young people, including parents, teachers, coaches, community and church leaders, and others, to participate in a Speak Your Mind Texas community conversation in their area. Participants will learn about mental health issues affecting their community, the warning signs of mental illness and substance abuse, and the resources available to help young people and those who support them face these challenges.

“People don’t like to talk about mental illness, and they don’t like to hear words like schizophrenic or bipolar, and we first have to get over that,” said Derek Dillard, a young adult who experienced bullying and depression and attempted suicide before successfully seeking treatment with the support of his family. He is one of four young people who candidly lend their voices and stories to a series of videos and public service announcements for Speak Your Mind Texas.

“Once we start talking,” Dillard said, “we can start making changes.”

Resources at will help people recognize mental illness and substance abuse and show them how to provide support, promote hope and foster recovery for people experiencing mental illness or emotional disturbance. Resources are also available by dialing 2-1-1.

“An estimated one in five Americans will experience a mental health issue during their lifetime, and one in 20 will develop a serious mental illness,” said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS commissioner. “Mental illness often strikes early, with half of all lifetime cases beginning by age 14 and three-fourths by age 24. That’s why Speak Your Mind Texas is focusing on our state’s youth and the people and organizations that support them.”

“People can and do recover from mental illness and substance abuse issues,” Dr. Lakey said.

The campaign is part of an overall Texas effort to raise awareness of mental health issues and increase access to services. The Texas Legislature added more than $300 million in additional mental health funding for 2014-2015. The funds are being used to expand services, decrease wait lists, make improvements at the state’s mental health hospitals, and develop targeted efforts for veterans and young people.

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