An Overview of Mental Health in Harlingen, Texas
The city of Harlingen, Texas is located in Cameron County and is known for having an extremely low cost of living. With a population of 65,467 people in an area of about 40 square miles, Harlingen is the fourth largest city in the Rio Grande Valley.
Home to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Harlingen is known for being a great bird watching location. The entire Rio Grande Valley is known for having over 500 species of birds that visitors enjoy seeing. There are also many other recreational activities residents enjoy in Harlingen including many beautiful parks and trails, several public golf courses, opportunities for fishing and hunting, plenty of shopping, and easy access to South Padre beach.
In spite of such natural beauty and activities to enjoy, there are many challenges the community of Harlingen faces including:
- Poverty: The poverty rate is incredibly high in Harlingen. Overall, 29.8 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The rate is even worst for Hispanic residents, which make up 80.5 percent of the population. Approximately 95 percent of Hispanics are living in poverty.
- Low Educational Attainment: The high school graduation rate for the city is 73.3 percent and only 17.7 percent of attain a bachelor’s degree or higher. Notably, only 66.12 percent of Hispanics and 59.20 percent of Native Americans graduate high school. Educational attainment has a huge impact on income. While 39.68 percent of high school drop outs are living in poverty, only 3.27 percent of college graduates live in poverty.
- High Unemployment Rate: The unemployment rate in Harlingen in 8.6 percent, which is almost five percent higher than the national average. Unemployment can lead to poverty or homelessness and has an adverse effect on one’s mental and physical health. In addition, those with mental illnesses are more likely to become unemployed.
- High Crime Rates: Harlingen has crime rates higher than both the state and national average. Overall, the crime rate is 49 percent higher than the average in Texas and 62 percent higher than the national average. While Harlingen actually has lower than average violent crime rates, the city has extremely high rates of property crimes.
- Suicide: The suicide rate in Texas, like the rest of Unites States, has been rising at alarming rates. While the suicide rate in Texas is 12.58 percent, the rate in Cameron County is lower than most other counties in Texas at 36 percent. Even though the area experiences lower than average rates, suicide is still a problem that needs to be addressed in the community.
- Substance Abuse: About 93 percent of adult Texans struggled with a substance abuse disorder in the past year. Since Texas shares a border with Mexico, drug trafficking is a major issue in the state. Excessive drinking and overdose deaths due to heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine, and prescriptions drugs, specifically opioids, are an issue throughout Texas.
Issues live poverty and unemployment can negatively affect one’s mental health. In addition, unresolved mental health issues can result in consequences like dropping out of high school, suicide, and substance abuse. Clearly, there are people in Harlingen who are struggling with mental health concerns and need treatment.
The Challenge of Finding a Suitable Therapist in Harlingen, Texas
In order for people in Harlingen to find relief for their mental health concerns, they need to receive help from a mental health professional. Unfortunately, many do not seek out or receive the treatment they need. According to Mental Health America, 56.4 percent of adults who need help for a mental illness do not receive it. In Texas, the percentage is even higher at 62.2 percent.
There are several reasons people don’t access treatment including a stigma surrounding mental health, trouble paying for care, and difficulty finding a professional in their area. 29.19 percent of adults with a disability claimed they could not see a doctor due to costs. Insurance also plays a big factor when it comes to affordability of mental health care. In Harlingen, 24.9 percent of the population does not have health insurance. Additionally, with only one mental health provider for every 1010 people, those with mental illnesses in Texas struggle to find a provider.