Nine out of 10 Texans say it’s more difficult to discuss mental than physical health. Yet mental health should be discussed – and treated — like any other health condition, be it diabetes or hypertension.

The Houston area has an alarmingly higher rate than the national average of people experiencing Serious Psychological Distress (SPD). A small fraction of folks actually get treatment. Why? Stigma.

Stigma is a real problem when it comes to treating depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. But there is nothing shameful about having a mental health issue. Taking care of the mind is just as important as taking care of your body.

Mental illness is quite common: One in five adults in America experience a mental illness, and nearly one in 25, or more than 10 million American adults, live with a serious mental illness.

Much progress has been made in decreasing stigma in recent years; many who previously were not willing to seek help for their struggles now are. However, many are still not getting treatment. Studies in recent years from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Child Mind Institute have shown similar numbers for children – about 2/3 with a diagnosable mental illness have not received treatment.

Legacy Community Health provides non-judgmental behavioral health care at many of its more than 30 neighborhood clinics to help meet the robust community need. We provide culturally competent care to adults and children in the diverse communities we serve, including Fifth Ward, Northside, and Southwest Houston.

It’s so important for those dealing with a mental health issue to know it’s okay to talk about it and get treatment. We all go to the doctor for aches and pains, the flu, and to manage diseases affecting our physical health. The same must also be true for the very common issues impacting our minds.

Dr. Lemaire is Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Legacy Community Health.