Rebecca Helterbrand of the San Antonio Area Foundation Discusses the State and Future of Mental Health Resources at Recent Consume and Converse Event
C3 Financial Partners (formerly Texas Financial Partners) wrapped up another successful Consume and Converse event, this time featuring speaker Rebecca Helterbrand of the San Antonio Area Foundation. Rebecca’s talk focused on mental health awareness, how we’re failing our children in this regard, and how we can do better.
C3 periodically invites distinguished guests to speak to members of the life insurance and financial services communities in order to facilitate dialogue and the sharing of ideas. We were pleased and excited to host Rebecca, whose insights into mental health awareness will surely help to increase our compassion for our clients and our ability to provide unwavering continuity of service to them.
The presentation, titled Where Are the Casseroles, began with the story of a woman whose daughter broke her arm in an accident. The family’s community—neighbors, friends, co-workers, and others—expressed their concern effusively. They shared their sympathies, prayed for them, and, to ease their burden, brought casseroles to the family’s home. But when the same girl was hospitalized for mental health issues, the community was nowhere to be found. As her mother put it, “The silence was deafening.”
The lack of awareness about children’s mental health issues, and our resulting inability to address them, has had some alarming impacts on our communities:
• At least 1 in 5 children experience a mental health issue before the age of 14.
• The average age of first substance use in Bexar County is 13.
• The majority of children with behavioral health symptoms go untreated. The average delay between onset of symptoms and treatment is 8 to 10 years.
Rebecca also noted that 1 in 4 adults will experience a need for mental health support during their lifetimes.
For most people, the very first intervention for mental health issues comes from what are called “downstream services.” These are services of emergencies and last resorts—such as police, EMTs, and emergency rooms—and they often result from regrettable and entirely preventable circumstances.
In light of these circumstances, Rebecca asked, “What if we could move the services upstream, to help end the stigma and increase mental health awareness?” With this mission in mind, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, with the support of the Kronkosky Foundation and the San Antonio Area Foundation, conducted a rapid environmental study of Bexar County mental health resources. They released a report in February of 2019 that identified upstream strategies and opportunities to improve mental health interventions and schools and other non-clinical settings. (Read the full Bexar County Children and Youth Rapid Behavioral Health Assessment here.)
In response to audience questions, Rebecca noted that medical schools are taking steps to improve mental health training as one way to address the problem. Others asked whether a person’s culture—whether in the community or in the home—may affect their willingness or ability to seek adequate treatment. Rebecca responded that, while few definitive studies on this phenomenon exist, a person’s experiences within the family certainly shape their attitude toward mental health.
Attendees of the event were moved and engaged by Rebecca’s talk. Kelly E. Foster, a shareholder at Gardner Law, told us that Rebecca “provided both exciting and thought-provoking information from the cutting edge of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s work for children’s mental and behavioral health. Attendees of C3’s Consume and Converse luncheons are so fortunate to have access to enlightening topics and speakers from the front lines of such relevant and diverse areas of the community.”
Despite the severity of the problem, Rebecca was optimistic about the future. She pointed to funding for mental health provided by the Texas Legislature, and the increased involvement of the San Antonio community and related resources. Planning is ongoing by groups like the San Antonio Area Foundation and its partners to expand the scope of these efforts into the coming years with one ambitious goal: “To reach every child with behavioral health concerns as early as possible with effective and responsive services.”