Public Policy: Prevention and Trauma
There are a variety of social, economic, and physical environments that can harm the mental health of individuals and communities. Because these factors do not affect everyone equally, well-documented mental health disparities and inequities exist in our society. Specifically, traumatic events can have lasting effects on a person’s mental health. Texas should identify and address factors that contribute to negative mental health outcomes.
Provide education and support around interpersonal violence
Experiencing interpersonal violence, including sexual assault and harassment, can be a deeply traumatic experience. A third of Texans experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetimes, usually by someone they know and often before adulthood. Policy strategies include:
- Prevention of interpersonal violence by promoting healthy relationships and consent amongst children and youth in schools and in other community settings
- Counseling and other supports funding for survivors
- HHSC Legislative Appropriation Request Exceptional Item 34 to provide survivors of family violence with mental health resources as part of the Family Violence Program.
Implement trauma-informed care/practice
Adverse childhood experiences and other traumatic events, when left untreated, can have a devastating impact on a person’s well-being and social outcomes, including higher rates of chronic physical health problems, severe mental health issues, and substance abuse disorders.
Texas should implement trauma-informed care and practices in all systems whose participants are at a higher risk of having experienced trauma. This includes children in the foster care system, adults and youth involved in the criminal justice system, and individuals who have served in the military.
Address poverty-related issues that impact mental health
Living in poverty can have a serious impact on the development of a child’s brain. Living in unstable housing situations, struggling to pay bills, food insecurity, and other intense stressors take a toll on the health and wellbeing of families. People living in poverty experience higher rates of mental illness for longer periods of time and with greater severity. Texas should invest in services that provide social and economic support for individuals and families living in poverty.
Support family mental health
The mental health of each family member impacts the well-being of the entire family. Mental health resources should be developed with children, parents, and other relatives in mind. 17% of new mothers experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but less than half receive any mental health treatment.
Texas should develop and publicize a wide range of affordable mental health resources for mothers, which may include:
- peer support
- Medicaid coverage until one year postpartum
Address the impact of physical environment on mental health
An individual’s physical environment can play a major role in their mental well-being. Green spaces and parks, safety, adequate infrastructure in housing and public buildings, sanitation, clean air and water, healthy foods, habitable temperatures, and other aspects of the physical environment can have an unexpected impact on a person’s mental health. Texas should invest in public health best practices to ensure clean, safe, and habitable communities.
Reduce mental health disparities
Mental health outcomes can dramatically differ across race, ethnicity, nationality, gender/gender identity, sexuality, age, or location. NAMI Texas supports efforts to reduce discrimination and social inequity, as well as increase access to services, necessities, and social and economic opportunities across Texas.
Testimony on Prevention and Trauma