HARLINGEN — Depression. Anxiety. Mental anguish and stress. Bullying.
It’s difficult to be a teenager, especially when adults oftentimes overlook the emotional well-being of children transitioning to young adulthood.
But thanks to the efforts of the Cameron County Mental Health Task Force and funding by the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, middle school aged students and their families will soon have a safe space to work through emotional or mental issues.
“Through discussion, we came out with the concept of an educational resource center in our school district in collaboration with Los Fresnos CISD,” said Sandra Ruiz, Los Fresnos CISD Director of Advanced Academics and chair of the Cameron County Mental Health Task Force. “Our school counselors can assist with identifying who are possible students and families that would be able to benefit from the support of this outreach center that will soon be created.”
The initiative, named “End the Stigma (ETS) Connect,” will be launched through funding from a one-year grant of approximately $50,000 from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, which was announced at the task force’s monthly meeting held Thursday at the Harlingen Outreach Center.
Former chair and current task force board member Rose M. Gomez, who is also CEO of the Cameron County Darrell B. Hester Juvenile Justice Center, explained Los Fresnos was selected as the location for the resource center due to its rural location and the need to address mental health related issues in communities of that size.
“We’re excited because that was something we as an organization wanted to do, start evolving to provide services,” Gomez said. “We always wanted to because we always talk about awareness. We care about mental health and wanted to tap into some need and there was an area there.”
The structure of the center and the services it will provide is still in the initial planning stages, with the next step being to form a subcommittee to work out the logistics, Ruiz explained.
“We continue to see issues with mental health needing to be addressed with our students. It’s nothing that is new. Those issues have always been there,” Ruiz said. “What’s becoming newer is the awareness, how we can provide support to our students and their families, and of course, ensuring that we do what we can to avoid any issues of stigma related to mental health issues.”
Did you know?
• The Cameron County Mental Health Task Force is a nonprofit organization with 13 board members.
• Task force members include professionals from a variety of fields, including education, law enforcement, health care and government officials.
• It was founded in 2006 by former Cameron County commissioner and current member of the Brownsville Navigation District Board of Commissioners John Wood, who saw a lack of professional resources for those in need of mental health care.
• Anyone is welcome to join the task force.
• Meetings are held on the second Thursday of the month at 10 a.m. at the Harlingen Outreach Center, 1102 S. Commerce St.
• For more information, call (956) 357-0825.
• Facebook: Cameron County Mental Health Task Force