City’s Mental Health Matters Campaign Raising Awareness and Services

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By Jon LeSage

The City of Long Beach announced a new resource on Nov.17 that can make a difference in quality of life for local residents. Mental Health Matters, a mental health awareness campaign, will suppoort public information and resources for individuals and their family members – many of whom have been struggling with mental health issues.

The campaign launch was followed by the Mental Health Resource Fair on Nov. 19 at Admiral Kidd Park in Long Beach. The fair was put on by an interdepartmental effort featuring art, sound baths, music, games, sports and more. It also offered attendees an opportunity to join up and pledge to advocate for and share resources on mental health in their communities.

When you visit the Mental Health Matters website, you’ll find a comprehensive set of resources aimed at normalizing and destigmitizing mental health issues, and to help local residents gain better access to and connection with mental health support services in Long Beach. The campaign and services offered come through the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.

Resources include:

A Mental Health Toolkit, with information on how mental health may look in our own lives, plus available resources, where to find support, and how to go about helping a loved one access needed resources.

How to take the pledge to be a Mental Health Champion to better serve your community and to work with organizations who provide services to these individuals. That was one of the offerings previously mentioned at the Admiral Kidd Park fair on Nov. 19.

Those who take the pledge can spread the word with window-clings and flyers, and to reach out to others that are actively creating safe, responsive environments for mental health.

“We are excited to launch the City’s Mental Health Matters website to raise awareness about this important issue,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “This campaign seeks to empower everyone in our city to learn more about mental health, find support for yourself and your loved ones and take the pledge to become a Mental Health Champion.”

Timing Is Right for Public Safety Concerns

Awareness and concern have been going up during this period following the peak of the pandemic. It’s been a time when marginaizled communities with less access to mental and physical healthcare have been most impacted, acording to local health care professionals.

That’s been tied into an increase in the homeless population in Long Beach in recent years. Local residents and business owners have also been concerned about an increase in gun violence and property crimes since 2020. These trends increased during the better part of a year filled with public demonstrations and a few incidents with heated conflict and violence after COVID-19 broke in mid-March 2020. While the demonstrations and a few confrontations were seperate from a rising murder and theft rate, they collectively ramped up social tensions during the pandemic and stay-at-home directives.

These difficult issues were present during the elections held this year. It’s also been a significant part within discussions over the city’s public services and investments in redevelopment for affordable and safe living spaces, retail locations, workplaces, and healthcare and mental health facilities.

Police officials have been working with downtown Long Beach business leaders recently through groups such as the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city streets and alleyways need better lighting, construction sights should be tightened up, and homeless encampments will need to be moved out prior to public events such as the 8th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting to be held on Dec. 5, business leaders say.

The Mental Health Matters awareness campaign comes at a time when public officials acknowledge that mental health issues are part of the complex social issues in Long Beach and beyond — but also need more accurate understanding of the reality faced by affected individuals and loved ones. Mental health is impacted by a person’s biology, family history, and life experiences. It plays a major role in how someone will feel, how they act, and how they keep up with their social relationshiops, the city’s awareness campaign says.

A chart on one of the Mental Health Matters pages shares a few facts for better raising public awarness. One in five adults experience mental illness each year. More than half of people with a mental health condition did not receive any treatment in the past year. Another fact raises a startling issue for many people: one person dies by suicide in the U.S. every 11 minutes.

“Whether you are looking to learn more about mental health, find support for yourself and your loved ones or take the pledge to become a Mental Health Champion, we’re here to empower everyone who lives, works or plays in Long Beach to uplift their own mental health and support others,” according to the Mental Health Matters campaign.

County Program Facilitates Care

Long Beach also has the headquarters office in Pine Ave. for Mental Health America in Los Angeles (MHALA). Started nearly a century ago in 1924, MHALA is among the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit mental health agencies in Los Angeles county. With another facility in Antelope Valley, the agency supports nearly 17,000 low-income individuals with integrated services.

MHALA services focus on mental health, healthcare, homelessness and housing, employment, wellness, and training for the behavioral health workforce, with special programs for Veterans and transition-age youth. Its services previously offered at 456 Elm Street are now offered in MHALA’s Integrated Service Center at 1955 Long Beach Blvd. Many services are being offered remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic; for additional information, email the organization at info@mhala.org.

Cal State University Long Beach also took it on itself to increase mental health services earlier this year. Announced in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the university started up a mobile crisis unit with mental health professionals responding to mental health emergencies in place of campus police.

The university said its the first in the Cal State University system to offer this mobile crisis unit for mental health issues. It was also part of a larger campaIgn at CSULB to launch 60 different initiatives aimed at identifying and supporting students’ mental health.

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

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