Mesquite, TX – October 26, 2020 – The City of Mesquite has announced it is offering its residents access to free mental health counseling and referral services through a new partnership with the AZAR Foundation. Residents can call 833-298-9111 to schedule a virtual or in-person session for individuals, couples and groups.
Mesquite Mayor Bruce Archer said, “We are so happy to take this first step as part of a large, comprehensive plan to address the mental health concerns for public safety responding to calls for service. Our immediate action with the AZAR Foundation partnership allows us to begin offering help to residents in need of mental health support.” Archer explained the $25,000 agreement with the AZAR Foundation will prioritize services to those residents referred by the Mesquite Police Department.
Mesquite’s Police Chief Charles Cato said, “We have responded to 81 attempted suicides so far this year. And, we have taken 703 individuals into protective custody in 2020, which is a 14% increase compared to 2019.” Cato shared the Mesquite Police Department has 90 officers with critical incident training and 14 are state certified mental health officers. He stated, “There is no shame in asking for help.”
The City’s comprehensive plan under development will include training for personnel, the addition of personnel with expertise in mental health and working with community partners to ensure a multifaceted approach is in place when responding to calls for service that require a mental health professional.
The announcement of the new free mental health services was made by Mayor Archer along with AZAR Foundation CEO Charlotte Allen. Allen said, “AZAR is pleased to be a partner with the City of Mesquite to provide mental health services to those in need. We are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities entrusted in our care."
In addition to Allen, Mesquite resident and survivor of suicide loss Shirley Weddle shared her story of losing her son Matthew in 2014 to suicide. She said, “There is a stigma related to suicide and mental health. It is important to understand that mental health is brain health which is physical health. We need to continue to bridge the gap between people and resources to understand the symptoms of suicide and how to get help.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness, offers these statistics on the issue of mental health:
- 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
- 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
- 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
- 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34
Mayor Archer explained that mental health is and continues to be a major issue in communities across the country and shared the current pandemic has added to the problem. He said, “Medical professionals and healthcare studies have shown an increase in mental health issues due to the stress, depression and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘COVID fatigue’ has created a serious problem of emotional stress. This surge in the mental health crisis has affected everyone from children, parents and employers, to the unemployed, healthcare providers, teachers and the list goes on – no one has been unaffected.”