North Texans Take Mental Health Concerns To Washington

Mental health resources remain in focus after the high-profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

In Texas, 81 percent of the state's counties are wholely, or partly designated as mental health professional shortage areas.

The president of Mental Health America tells NBC 5 one of the biggest obstacles to treating issues is how we approach the crisis.

"If we put a premium on addressing mental health concerns the way we put a premium on the way we address cancer at the earliest stages, we would be making a big difference for everyone on the streets and at home," said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of Mental Health America.

Two North Texans traveled to Washington, D.C. to rally lawmakers for attention on the critical need. 

If there is power in numbers, Bonnie Cook and Debbie Dobbs have come to the right place.

Bonnie Cook is Executive Director of Mental Health America Greater Dallas

Debbie Dobbs is Executive Director of The Counseling Place in Richardson.

"We see the impact on the family. The grief is so complicated," said Dobbs.

They're in Washington D.C. with hundreds of other mental health advocates for the Mental Health America conference and Tuesday was designated to one on one meetings with lawmakers.

NBC 5 was there as they met with Representative Pete Sessions, one of four lawmakers from Texas on their agenda.

They lay out their asks, like more counseling services in schools, better resources for parents who are concerned about their kids and emotional intelligence programs to teach children at a young age how to cope with emotions.

"Part of it is to help lift the stigma attached to these services," said Dobbs.

"There were specific ideas that were brought to the table together and that is how can schools better identify, spot and develop techniques and answers so they can collaborate with parents and student. That comes directly out of the department of education," said Sessions.

"I feel hopeful that, because of the events of the last week, that we are starting that discussion, that people are picking up the phone calling someone for help," said Cook.

The Mental Health America conference last through Saturday.

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