Opinion: Tahoe-Truckee lacking mental health resources | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Tahoe-Truckee lacking mental health resources

Megan Darzynkiewicz

"The guilt I felt for having a mental illness was horrible. I prayed for a broken bone that would heal in six weeks. But that never happened. I was cursed with an illness that nobody could see and nobody knew much about." These are the words of Andy Behrman, a successful author fighting a mental illness.

Mental illness is a serious issue, not only in the little town of Truckee, but in the entire world. Truckee is not an exception, in fact it may be even more serious than most places. We need to be able to help those who need it. Mental health is a big issue in the community, an issue that demands to be confronted.

There are many mentally unstable people in California. The California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions says that 15 percent of all adults have a mental illness of some sort. Of that, 3.1 percent are inpatient, 22.4 percent are prescription, 13.2 percent are outpatient, and 61.3 percent are not treated (CIBHS, 2013).

That means that of 100 people, 9 of them have a untreated mental illness. Of everyone in California, 9 percent of the population is living with an untreated mental illness.

Not only is mental illness an issue in the state, but it is also an issue in Truckee. Of Truckee's population of 16,165 people, 100 of these people are living with serious mental illness (Bell, 2015).

The average of depression is higher than the state average in children and in adults. The 2015 town of Truckee mayor, Alicia Barr, said, "People think that we have everything up here but in reality, we don't."

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Truckee has a lot of gaps in mental health care. Even the former mayor agrees. Not only is Truckee higher than the state average in depression, but it doesn't have the mental health support that it needs.

There aren't that many places to help those who need it. According to the Truckee Mental Health Directory of Fall 2013, there are 29 behavioral and mental health providers and organizations in Nevada County.

Only 8 of these are for mental illness, 5 for teens with mental illness, and only 2 are also available in Spanish. Many of these only take private payment, and only one takes medical insurance.

Truckee barely has any help for those who need it. Some of the Truckee/Tahoe residents know about this issue and aim to do something about it. Locals are aware of what is going on.

One local, Sarah Adams, remarks, "We are so focused on the health of the environment, we forget about the health of our people."

Phebe Bell, Program Manager for Health and Human Services in Nevada and Placer counties, said that, "It's hard for those people living with mental illness."

Ms. Bell is always advocating to bring more mental support into the community, but it is a very difficult task when the Nevada County council is in Nevada City and not in the Truckee community. Mentally unstable people need the help and support of the community. These people can be helped. Bell also stated, "Being told that you have a mental illness is like being sentenced to isolation."

These people don't have homes. Almost all they want is to be accepted. "Everyone has a little bit (of mental illness). It's just managing that line," Bell said.

What you can do for these people is to  accept them and help them live a normal life. They are people too. They need help. The person sitting next to you could be living with a mental illness, but they got the help they needed. Truckee needs to be able to provide the support that these individuals need. Mental illness is a serious issue that needs to be faced. Anything could make a difference for someone living with a mental illness. Can you make that difference?

Megan Darzynkiewicz is a Truckee resident. She conducted the above interviews in the fall of 2015. Visit tfhd.com/pdf/MH-directory.pdf to download a copy of the Truckee-North Tahoe Mental & Behavioral Health Resource Directory.