By Vanita Halliburton | Contributor
“Hello, Mrs. Halliburton. This is the eighth-grade school counselor. I’m calling about your son. It seems he has been cutting himself lately, and I think you will want to get some help for him right away. Do you know a therapist or psychiatrist?”
This was the call I received from my son’s middle school one sunny day when I was 1,000 miles from home on a business trip. I was stunned. I remember stepping out of a meeting to take the call, and when I hung up, I sat down on a curb and cried. I didn’t know what else to do.
The fact is, I didn’t even know what cutting was. The counselor said it was a type of self-harm that was linked to emotional pain. Emotional pain? How was it possible that my carefree, beautiful boy could seem so happy on the outside while silently struggling on the inside? This young teen who lit up every room and kept everyone laughing with his antics and wit? I couldn’t fathom it.
I knew we needed to find help for him. However, I found myself facing an unexpected dilemma.
I had no idea what kind of “help” we needed, let alone where to find it or who to ask for recommendations.
I could have asked anyone for a referral to a doctor or dentist—a friend, neighbor, co-worker, family member, or another parent—but this was a mental health issue. The stigma around mental illness pulled me instinctively toward silence and secrecy.
I did not want to confide to anyone that my child had a mental health issue, that he was hurting himself on the outside because he was hurting so much on the inside.
Finally, I dug up the name of a therapist I barely knew but heard speak at a meeting once. She turned out to be a wonderful professional who helped my son manage his chronic depression over the next five years.
That was 18 years ago. The truth is, there is still a great deal of stigma around mental illness. People are still reluctant to speak up when they need help for anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions. People still don’t know where to turn for information, referrals or guidance for mental health treatment. Stigma remains one of the primary barriers to seeking mental health treatment.
In 2005, my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He spent 30 days in a hospital psychiatric unit. Two weeks after he was discharged, he took his own life at the age of 19.
The nonprofit organization that bears his name, Grant Halliburton Foundation, is committed to strengthening the network of mental health resources for children, teens, and young adults; promoting better mental health; and preventing suicide.
We do this by educating young people—and all the adults in their lives—about mental health and suicide prevention. Last year, we trained more than 35,000 students, school staff, parents, and professionals on how to recognize and respond to a person in emotional distress or suicidal crisis. We also offer peer support groups for parents of youth with mental health or addiction problems.
Finding mental health resources that are appropriate for your situation can be frustrating, confusing, and daunting.
First you wonder, do you need a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist? Should you see your doctor or pediatrician first? Should you try to get a mental health assessment? And how do you decide? Are you dealing with a crisis situation that may require hospitalization? Do you have insurance or do you need lost-cost or no-cost scale services? Do you need someone who speaks Spanish or another language? So many questions!
We have answers.
This year, Grant Halliburton Foundation introduced the Here For Texas Mental Health Navigation Line, a free helpline that provides callers with information and options for resources that match their specific needs for mental health care.
Here’s how it works. When you call the Mental Health Navigation Line, a trained navigator will listen to your needs, gather details such as the type of mental health services you are seeking, age of the patient, language preference, ideal location for services, and other information. Then a team of licensed mental health professionals at Grant Halliburton Foundation will research potential resources and email you with names and contact information for provider options that may meet your needs. A week or two later, a mental health navigator will get in touch with you to see if you received the information and if you need additional follow-up assistance.
The new helpline is the first of its kind in North Texas and is available to callers seeking resources for themselves or for someone else, such as a family member, patient, client, student or friend. When they call the navigation line, they will find guidance, information, and resources related to mental illness and substance use issues.
The new community resource is an extension of Grant Halliburton Foundation’s HereForTexas.com website—a comprehensive database of more than 700 North Texas mental health providers and resources.
The Here For Texas Mental Health Line can be reached at 972-525-8181 Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The day I got that phone call from the middle school counselor, I would have given anything to have been able to call a trained mental health navigator to help me find the resources I needed for my son. I’m proud that Grant Halliburton Foundation can provide this kind of help.
To learn more, visit HereForTexas.com.
Editor’s Note: Vanita Halliburton is co-founder and executive chairman of Grant Halliburton Foundation, a nonprofit established in 2006 following the suicide death of her son, Grant Halliburton.
5 Warning Signs of Mental Illness
A Change in Personality. If someone is acting like a very different person, or not acting or feeling like himself, this is a warning sign.
Uncharacteristic Anxiety, Anger, or Moodiness. Severe changes in emotion are a cause for alarm, especially if they are persistent.
Social Withdrawal and Isolation. If an individual is “closing off” socially, cancelling social engagements, or spending too much time alone, this is a serious warning sign of emotional or mental health issues.
Lack of Self-Care or Risky Behaviors. People with mental health issues often lose concern over their own health and well-being, engaging in risky behaviors like drinking and drug use. In addition, a
lack of hygiene, or lack of concern with appearance, may be indicative of a mental health issue.
A Sense of Hopelessness or Feeling
Overwhelmed. Mental health difficulties often cause people to give up—to feel like life is just too hard or that they will never feel “normal” again.
– American Psychological Association
Symptoms in children may include the following:
• Changes in school performance
• Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
• Hyperactive behavior
• Frequent nightmares
• Frequent disobedience or aggression
• Frequent temper tantrums
Here For Texas Mental Health Navigation Line
Connecting Texans to Resources for Mental Health and Addiction
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday – Friday
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Free and confidential emotional support for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Think you’d like to be a Mental Health Navigator?
The Grant Halliburton Foundation provides extensive free training and mental health education to equip our navigators to effectively respond to calls for information and resources. No previous experience is needed. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.