Like Judd, the Center for Health Care Services fights the stigma of mental illness

For years, Naomi Judd suffered in silence.

The country music singing legend was overcome with feelings of depression and anxiety. She was also overwhelmed by the stigma of mental illness, which made her afraid to talk about her suffering.

“When I did interviews I couldn’t really tell the truth because I didn’t want to bring people down,” Judd said in 2015. “It didn’t fit the image they had of Mama. Judd I kept pushing him down and suppressing him.

Last week, Judd died of mental illness at the age of 76. But there is an edifying aspect in his story that deserves to be remembered.

Ten years ago, Judd faced his mental health challenges, overcame the stigma and, with the support of his family, got professional help.

The mental health services Judd received not only extended his life, but improved the quality of it. She was proud to be an advocate for mental health, someone who could encourage others to overcome their fears and seek help.

“I get all emotional when I think we have 16 million people in this country who are suffering from depression right now,” Judd said in 2015. “I just can’t take it.”

In the mental health industry, it is difficult to provide all the services patients need. Then there’s the equally daunting challenge of connecting people to these services, letting them know where to go and who to contact. And convince them that it’s a good idea to access this help.

This is what Judd wanted for others, and it should serve as a lesson to his story.

“This disease can really destroy a family and can leave the individual and the family very desperate and not knowing where to go,” said Jelynne LeBlanc Jamison, CEO of the Center for Health Care Services (CHCS), the mental health authority from Bexar. County, which serves 40,000 patients a year.

“Just navigating our medical system can be very daunting. Add to that the complexity and stigma associated with mental health issues, in the sense that you don’t feel comfortable talking about it, people don’t have a very strong vocabulary. They don’t know how to talk about it and they don’t know where to go.

For those who need immediate assistance, CHCS has the following 24-hour crisis line: 210-223-SAFE.

The problem has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The huge growth for us for new consumers has been teenagers and young people,” Jamison said. “The isolation at home, not having access to their regular school schedule, not having access to their friends, in some cases the loss of parents or family members, has really impacted our population more younger, proportionally, than our adult population.”

A positive development is that the City of San Antonio has pledged to allocate $26 million of American Rescue Plan Act federal funds to mental health services.

In April, the city also launched a year-long pilot program that combines police officers, paramedics and CHCS clinicians into a crisis response team to handle calls involving health issues. mental.

“They’ve been working as a team since April,” Jamison said. “It was a smooth rollout, as we wanted to spend time training these people together, so that they understand each of their roles, but also have a better idea of ​​the roles of their team members.

“It was very successful. The majority of our calls so far have been resolved on the spot.

Jacob Benavides is a long-time CHCS patient who now assists other patients.

Benavides, 39, graduated in 2001 from John Marshall High School. After attending the University of Texas at Austin, he worked in Austin as a sales representative for a community newspaper.

In 2009, he began to experience anxiety and depression, hearing voices in his head, seeing things that weren’t there, and finding it almost impossible to leave his house. He went from 175 to 295 pounds.

At his mother’s suggestion, Benavides went to a CHCS clinic and things started to change for him.

“I got to a place where I was finally able to take back control of my life,” Benavides said.

“I give the Center for Health Care Services credit for getting me to where I am now in my recovery, for doing these things, for being able to help others in their recovery process.”

Jamison recognizes that community engagement is half the battle.

In this sense, CHCS has partnered with Raising Cane’s to fight the stigma of mental illness. All food purchases on May 23 at local Cane stores will benefit the mental health cause.

“I don’t want to be San Antonio’s best-kept secret anymore,” Jamison said.

Naomi Judd would have applauded this sentiment.

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