Program tackles mental illness

Tyler Howard, a junior psychology major, has been training for several weeks to become a student ambassador for a program called “1 in 5 Minds” in order to spread awareness about the different kinds of mental illnesses and therapeutic services in San Antonio in a way that helps citizens, primarily students, deal with the different mental processes.

1 in 5 Minds is supported by Clarity Child Guidance Center, an agency funded by United Way and donors statewide. The name of the program derives from the fact that one in five young people in the United States experience a mental, emotional or behavioral health disorder such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic disorders or ADHD, according to Clarity’s website.

“Clarity is the only nonprofit child therapeutic service in Southwest Texas and one of the only ones that starts to treat kids as early as three years old,” Howard said.

According to Clarity’s website, Bexar County alone has approximately 80,000 children that are affected by mental health illness. 20 percent of the children have a mental illness, and 80 percent of these children are not able to get medical attention due to lack of resources, social stigma and insurance issues. Social stigma is a large reason why people don’t get help. Social stigma is an attempt to label a group as less able than others. If you are a parent, you aren’t going to want them to get help because its a mark of shame in your genetic makeup.

“Children are suffering mainly due to stigma and cost of access,” said Rebecca Helterbrand, vice president for Marketing and Resource Development of Clarity Child Guidance Center.

Right now, Texas has moved up from last place to 46th place when it comes to having every diagnosed child get treatment for mental illness.

Howard came to Trinity with the intention of educating children, but he steered towards developmental psychology when he discovered his passion in that field. He believes that Clarity has provided him with an opportunity to further his interests. While most other facilities specialize in bolstering the concept of reward versus punishment, one of the reasons Howard supports Clarity is for the different approach they take.

“Clarity believes that every child does the best he or she can, and their treatment reflects that,” Howard said.

1 in 5 minds encourages people to learn and help prevent fallacies of logic regarding mental childhood illnesses. The program sponsors “Walking Tours” to showcase facilities in order to help others find “Clarity.”

Because there are programs in place that keep information under wraps for confidentiality purposes, people often think that there is nothing that they can do because mental health workers and volunteers need specialized training to work in the mental health field, but Howard’s role as student ambassador is meant to change that misperception.

“This is Bexar County’s baby, a city-wide program, that trains student ambassadors to try and spread word through elder members of society,” Howard said. “They are currently trying to spread information into collegial environments.”

Howard wants to stop jokes about mental health at their “root” because if they are told frequently “people can grow into them.”

Some students who have heard about Howard’s role as student ambassador for the 1 in 5 Minds program support his cause and ambition.

“It’s an excellent idea to spread this level of awareness about mental health all over campus,” said senior Pramath Parijat.

Howard is working with Trinity Progressives to have a mental health week that is specifically designed to address several issues. He plans on getting Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity, to spread awareness at a fundraising gala that is coming up. Howard also opens the invitation to any Greek organization that wants to stand by his side in helping people understand mental illness.