South Texas Health System Behavioral Brings Together Leaders From Across Industries to Help Shatter the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

Thursday, May 23, 2024
All the panelists at the education event

Panelists for the “CommUNITY: Shattering the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health as a Community Through Education, Communication & Support" event

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to increased rates of anxiety, depression and substance use disorder in the United States and abroad, more Americans are prioritizing their mental health. Spending on mental health services among Americans with private insurance rose by 53% since the start of the pandemic, according to a new study by the RAND Corporation and Castlight Health, with the use of mental health services increasing by 39%.

Currently, more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, per the CDC, with about one in 25 U.S. adults living with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression. Meanwhile, one in five children and adolescents has or will develop a mental illness in their lifetime. While more people are seeking treatment, more than half of U.S. adults don’t receive treatment for mental illness, which can result in a poor quality of life, unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance use disorder, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration and suicide.

Get help at STHS Behavioral

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts, help is available 24/7 at STHS Behavioral. For a confidential assessment call 956-388-1300 or visit If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Mental Health Education, Communication and Support

To commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, South Texas Health System Behavioral partnered with South Texas College to host a special panel discussion on Thursday, May 23, 2024, aimed at addressing the current challenges surrounding mental health treatment and what still can be done to ensure people struggling with mental health challenges get the help they need.

“It’s important to break the stigma surrounding mental health to ensure that individuals struggling get the help they need, especially as more people are seeking treatment for mental health issues post-pandemic,” says Tom Castañeda, System Director of Marketing and Public Relations, South Texas Health System, who served as the moderator for the event. "It’s a hot button issue that has become a global public health priority. To increase mental health literacy and combat the fear and misunderstanding that often leads to prejudice against people with mental illness and addictions, it’s imperative that we unite as a community to provide education, communication and support to those experiencing mental health issues. This panel discussion, taking place during Mental Health Awareness Month, served as a way to gauge where we stand when it comes to mental health services across various sectors in the Rio Grande Valley while assessing what still needs to be done to ensure people get the help and support they need!”

Several panelists on stage speaking at the event

Entitled “CommUNITY: Shattering the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health as a Community Through Education, Communication & Support,” the event featured the participation of experts from various sectors, including healthcare, education, private industry, law enforcement and the judicial system. They discussed advancements in the Rio Grande Valley related to mental health services for those struggling and offered expert insights to help community members better understand what we can do as individuals and as a community to help everyone prioritize their mental health.

“Information is knowledge, and knowledge is power. To bring mental health awareness to the forefront, help break the stigma and help community members better prioritize their mental health, community education and outreach is key,” says Belinda Salinas Anzaldua, Chief Asst. District Attorney, Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office, who encourages community members to listen, be observant and have open and honest conversations to help those struggling before it’s too late. “I’ve seen a lot of progress when it comes to mental health in my 20-plus years working in the mental health arena across various sectors. Today’s panelists demonstrated that! And the stigma is being shattered among the younger generations; they’re more open about mental health than previous generations. But we must all have open hearts, open arms and open minds when it comes to supporting individuals who may be struggling.”

Event Speakers

Panelists included:

  • Nenci Garcia, MS, LPC, LCDC, Licensed Professional Counselor, Guidance and Counseling Department, Mission C.I.S.D.
  • Sgt. Jesus Gaytan, Mental Health Crisis Response Unit, Edinburg Police Department
  • Armando Medrano, LPC Supervisor, Manager, Counseling Services Department, South Texas College
  • Estela Molina, PHR, Human Resources, L&F Distributors
  • Dr. Rodolfo Quintana, PsyD, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, McAllen VA Outpatient Clinic, VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System
  • Belinda Salinas Anzaldua, Chief Asst. District Attorney, Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office
  • Lupita Treviño, Regional Market Manager, CIGNA Healthcare
  • Kevin Trussell, MSN, RN, Director of Nursing, South Texas Health System Behavioral

“I'm really impressed with how focused the Valley is when it comes to mental health,” says Jessica Becker, Chief Executive Officer, South Texas Health System Behavioral. “From dedicated mental health units in local police departments, the VA’s outreach programs for veterans, important mental health initiatives in Valley schools and colleges to private businesses offering more mental health programs for their employees, so much is being done to address mental health in our communities. I’m grateful to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to attend our event and talk about mental health. It’s inspiring to see how we’re putting the unity in community when it comes to breaking the stigma.”