ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- For many Texans living with mental illness, the stigma surrounding mental healthcare can be the largest barrier to accepting help. Chief Clinical Officer Starla Cason of the Betty Hardwick Center said most of the clients she speaks with have been grappling with their illness in silence for so long that they feel there is no other way.

“When they come in here for intake, a lot of them are just. They’re tired of coping with their symptoms on their own,” Cason said.

Even if a person is able to accept that assistance is needed, the path of self care is made infinitely more accessible when the community around them is affirming and open to the science behind their diagnosis.

“There’s still a lot of stigma with mental health… When you tell someone it’s not real or they’re just being lazy or it’s mind over matter. All of those things that we’ve probably heard before. It can be pretty defeating to that person,” Cason explained.

And the field is vast, making it difficult to know where to start. This is why phone operators at 211 ‘A call for help’ are standing by 24/7 across the state to provide direction to those that may feel lost or intimidated by the process.

“I’m going to help you the best I can to give you the referrals that you need… it’s okay to be able to say hey I need help,” 211 Abilene Program Director Lynn Jackson said.

Jackson shared she has fielded many calls from people dealing with the enormous weight of mental illness. Most of them just trying to understand what help is out there and how to get started.

“They say, I’m feeling frustrated, I’m stressed whatever, unemployed. I have a lot going on and I just really need to talk to someone,” Jackson explained.

Some not willing to admit there is an issue at all, although Jackson puts it into simple terms: just because your symptoms may not be visible, it doesn’t mean they don’t impact your quality of life.

“It’s just like if you had high blood pressure you go to your doctor you ask for help, its the same thing with mental health issues. It’s really nothing to be ashamed of,” Jackson said.

Often, reassuring voices like hers may be the first time a person on the other end of the phone feels heard. An integral part of the process according to Cason.

“To reaffirm that what they’re experiencing is real or that other people experience the same thing too. That they’re not alone… And sometimes it’s a long road and sometimes it’s a short road. But it doesn’t matter as long as they’re getting there,” Cason expressed.

Whether you think you may be dealing with mental illness or interested in learning how to respond to a friend or loved one’s call for help, there are resources available.

  • The Betty Hardwick Mental Health First Aid program is a free course that gives anyone the tools to better understand how mental illness impacts a life, as well as how to best offer support when someone you know is in need.
  • 211 a call for help is a state wide community assistance program that can offer direction for a large number of topics including mental health issues by connecting callers to the program or organization that best suits their needs.
    • Dial 211 for immediate assistance
  • Mosaic Wellness offers a team of licensed professional counselors for a variety of needs such as grief therapy and anger management. As well as courses on parenting.
  • The Highland Counseling center website states it “was opened with the purpose of providing accessible and affordable mental, emotional, and relational help for Highland members and the community of Abilene.”
    • Offering personal and couples counseling by appointment.