Mental Health Spotlight: What’s At Stake and Why Lessons in Car Repair Apply

Last fall, my husband informed me my car was leaking something in our driveway.  Being responsible, I (eventually) got around to taking the car into our neighborhood garage and asked them to check it out.  They did their thing and said they didn’t see any signs of leak, but they went ahead and tightened a few thingamabobs and told me to come back if the mystery leak returned.

A few weeks went by. Hubby said that the spot in the driveway appeared to be getting bigger and he now noticed a smell coming off my car’s engine. So I (eventually) took my car back into the garage and asked them to check it out again. Lo and behold, my power steering unit was leaking.

Yay – mystery leak solved!

But because leak wasn’t identified and taken care of when the problem first emerged, the leaking fluid damaged other parts of the car, which in turn needed to be replaced. To the tune of $500. Ouch.

Life lessons learned:

  1. When there are signs that something is amiss, don’t ignore it. Get it checked it out.
  2. When someone tells you there is nothing to worry about, but you continue to see signs that something is not quite right, don’t take their word for it. Even if they are so-called “experts.” Request a second look.  Maybe even get a second opinion.
  3. Not addressing a small problem can lead to bigger problems. Which cost more money and be harder to fix.
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Tomorrow hundreds of people from across Texas will be gathering in Austin to mark Mental Health Day at the Capitol. They will urge the Legislature to support programs and policies that help prevent, intervene, and treat mental health concerns in children and adults.

I’m pretty sure these mental health folks – persons with mental illness, family members, advocates, providers, and allies – would nod their head in agreement if presented with my aforementioned life lessons. They know how critical it is to recognize early signs of mental health concerns, to consult with knowledgeable professionals and to get the right treatment for the issue at hand. They know the benefits of addressing problems early, and the added difficulties and costs that come from putting things off.

These mental health advocates will be offering their sage advice to the Legislature on Thursday, and if they know what’s good for the state, our lawmakers will listen to them. Texas needs to make mental health a priority.  It needs to implement policies and invest in programs that will help identify and treat mental health concerns early, when issues are easier and less costly to address. It needs to grow and sustain its supply of health and mental health providers who have the knowledge and skills needed to recognize mental health concerns and know how to effectively address them. Texas needs to make sure services and supports are available to help those with mental illness live a quality life in their communities by managing, if not recovering, from their illnesses.

Texas needs to do all of these things not just because it is the right thing to do (which it is), but also because it is the smart thing to do.  Some very bright people determined that mental illness and substance abuse disorders cost Texas businesses and state and local governments hundreds of billions of dollars each year. HUNDREDS of BILLIONS. That’s billions with a “B.”

I hope the Texas Legislature will be listening to mental health advocates tomorrow. Because suddenly, my $500 car repair seems like chump change.


Written by: Josette Saxton, Mental Health Policy Associate with Texans Care for Children