Texoma BHC shines light on mental health needs, resources

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Texoma Behavioral Health Leadership Team Chairman Harry Lemming speaks during the Community Behavioral Health Conference Friday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vent was livestreamed on the internet.

Representatives from more than a dozen community organizations came together virtually Friday to discuss the status of mental health resources across Texoma at the Community Behavioral Health Conference. The event showcases the organizations across Texoma that prove mental healthcare services while also putting a spotlight on needs in the area.

This represents the fifth year for the conference and the first time that it has been virtual, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than meeting in person, organizers live-streamed a series of live and filmed panels, discussions and question and answer sessions on a variety of mental health topics.

"The past year has been an extra  difficult year," Texoma Behavioral Health Leadership Team Chairman Harry Lemming said. "We wanted to ensure that our conference continued, so that's why this is the first time it has been virtual. Also, we wanted to launch it in May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month."

While a lot of focus has been placed on the physical health concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lemming said the disease has also had its impact on mental health. The c magnitude of the pandemic has led to an increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of isolation, hopeless and other mental health issues, Lemming said.

"The Meadows Mental Health Institute is continuing to report heightened rates of anxiety and depression during COVID-19," he said. "The rates are already higher than the state in Grayson, Fannin, Bryan and Marshall (counties)."

While mental health is a major component of general wellbeing, Lemming said access to resources isn't as prevalent as other health services. In many cases, area services are disjointed, unlike the resources one might get at a hospital, Lemming said.

Still, early assessment and treatment are important as they can prevent mental health issues from increasing over time.

"Depression and anxiety are the mental health cold," Lemming said. "It starts out somewhere, and if we don't take care of it, it can turn into  major depression and major anxiety and there are major consequences that come with that."

Friday's topics reflected these trends in some ways, with focuses on mental health in the workplace and discussions on topics like Zoom fatigue. As many people spend a significant portion of their day at work, either in person or remote, mental health in the workplace needs to be a focus area for many people, Lemming said.

"If we can have tools and access in the workplace, it will just help us overall," Lemming said.

Mental health resources in the education system was another focus area for Friday. Like the workplace, many people spend a significant amount of time in area schools, he said. This extends beyond just students and encompasses campus staff and faculty as well, Lemming said.