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Houston is also a major hub for the healthcare and biomedical industries. It’s home to the Texas Medical Center, which is the largest of its kind, and where more heart surgeries are performed than anywhere else on the planet.
The city seems to have fantastic resources to cater to the physical health of its population. But what is the state of mental health in Houston?
What is the Current State of Mental Health in Houston?
With one in every eight people in the world experiencing a mental disorder, it’s easy to see how consistent and untreated disturbances in thinking, emotional regulation, or behavior regularly stop a large number of people from living a positive life. With a population of over 2.2 million, Houston is not immune to this.
Studies show the “average number of mentally unhealthy days” in Houston has significantly increased in recent years. Unhealthy days are defined by an increased amount of experienced stress, depression, or other types of emotional distress that stop someone from living a fulfilling life.
Mental Health Statistics in Houston
Recent statistics show that one in 13 adults in Texas experiences at least one major depressive episode. Houston in particular has not only reported an increase in mental distress frequency, but also drug use and suicide. The suicide rate, for example, has increased to 11.2 per 100,000 from 10.3 over two decades ago.
While the number of specialists and care workers is overall higher, access to professional mental health services is lower than the national rate.
Common Mental Health Issues in Houston
According to Harris County Public Health, anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental health conditions in Houston. But there are others, including ADHD (classed as a behavioral disorder) and substance abuse.
What Factors Contribute to Mental Health Problems in Houston?
Here are some of the factors that contribute to mental health conditions in Houston.
Many mental health disorders are caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, which leads to changes in brain structure and function. Studies have found that genetics play a role at a rate of 30-50%. However, the genes that influence the development of specific mental health conditions are not yet fully understood.
The environment someone lives in may also accelerate the onset of mental health conditions. Examples of environmental threats include air pollutants and exposure to toxins during childhood. Although extreme weather conditions, such as excessive rain or snow or lack of sunlight, can also be to blame.
Mental Health Disorders
The range of disorders that can affect someone’s mood, thinking, and behavior is widely varied. Aside from the most well-known anxiety disorders and depression, others include:
- Bipolar and personality disorders
- Addictive or compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Eating disorders
- Disruptive behavioral and dissocial disorders
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
Stress & Trauma
Stress and trauma can also contribute to behavioral health issues, especially with exposure to stress persist for long periods. For example, stress can lead to sleep problems, pain in the body, and muscle tension. In addition, loss and bereavement can contribute to the onset of PTSD.
Substance Use Disorder
Exposure to stress and several other factors can also lead to substance use disorders (SUD), which are closely linked to addiction disorders. SUDs affect a person’s brain and behavior by causing the inability to control the use of certain substances, such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications.
Mental Health Stigma
Unfortunately, mental health has a lot of stigmas attached to it. People who display or are diagnosed with mental health illnesses often face negative or discriminatory attitudes from society at large. This contributes to and exacerbates the feeling of internalized shame that someone may experience about their condition. Sadly, it is also a contributing factor to people deciding against seeking help.
Poverty and Social Exclusion
Finally, people exposed to adverse circumstances, including poverty, violence, disability, or inequality (and the social exclusion that might result), are also at a higher risk of developing conditions that may require mental health care in their life.
What Counseling Services are Available in Houston?
A variety of services are available in Houston. The Grief Recovery Center in West Houston, for example, offers counseling sessions, including:
- Couples Counseling (also known as Relationship Counseling or Marriage Counseling). This helps in addressing struggling or broken relationships.
- In-person group counseling.
- Individual Therapy and Family Therapy with a trained family therapist. This is an invaluable service that can benefit the entire family when going through challenging life experiences.
- Online Counseling throughout Texas.
How Has the Pandemic Affected Mental Health in Houston?
Research conducted by the University of Houston shows that the pandemic negatively impacted the mental health state of many Houston residents. In particular, statistics reported an “increase in the level of worry, anxiety, concern, and loss in interest”. Feelings of anxiety seemed predominant during the lockdown, especially among female respondents.
How to Get Help for a Mental Health Problem in Houston?
Several options are available in Houston for anyone interested in accessing mental health care services. Assessments and consultations can be carried out both in person and online, where physical access isn’t possible.
Private outpatient mental health counseling practices such as the Grief Recovery Center provide full access to a team of licensed therapists dedicated to providing confidential counseling and compassionate care.
The center serves all ages and offers a variety of services, including depression therapy, anxiety treatment, sex abuse therapy, trauma therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, anger management, and Grief and Compassionate Counseling, which focuses on loss and bereavement.
Mental Health Matters to Houston
While worrying statistics and the worsening of mental health conditions in Houston may indicate that the city is facing a mental health crisis, the focus on mental health is undoubtedly present.
As well as private outpatient clinics, vulnerable individuals, couples, or families of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities can access specialized resources and non-profit organizations, such as NAMI Greater Houston.
Various solutions and services are available in the city, and with the right support, anyone’s condition can improve and recover completely.