AP NEWS

Mental health fair to bring resources to forefront

May 1, 2019

A Midland resident was motivated to organize an event aimed at addressing the pressing public issue of mental health after tragedy struck her family.

Rhonda King recently lost a family member to suicide and said the incident left her relatives in an emotional tailspin.

The National Institute of Mental Health identifies suicide as a major, preventable mental health problem in the United States with more than 40,000 people taking their lives each year. The NIMH website states that suicide is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the country.

“My kids grew up here and they both had friends that have taken their own lives and I’ve known others,” King said. “I finally said we’ve got to do something.”

King created a mental health fair that will take place Saturday during Mental Health Awareness Month and she seeks to connect community members with resources that were pivotal for her family. She said about 18 organizations will be in attendance this weekend at the Midland YMCA to provide a variety of information on health and wellness topics.

While grieving the loss of a loved one, King said Cole’s Grace Project was one of the local nonprofits that immediately stepped in to help support her family.

Cole’s Grace Project was founded by Rachel Austin in honor of her son, Cole, who died by suicide in 2015.

“I realized there were so many people out there like me that had been grieving,” Austin said, “and I really became aware of how there was this large need.”

Austin said she was surprised to learn just how many people there are in the Midland-Odessa area that struggle daily with thoughts and emotions associated with grief, and the many who do not have a counselor, a support system in place or a “tribe of people that they can rely on.”

She said the organization has helped about 300 people since it was launched in 2016.

“They wanted counseling, but they couldn’t afford it,” Austin said. “The mission of our organization is to ease the financial burden for family members who desire grief counseling after they’ve lost a loved one and not necessarily just due to suicide. It’s really for any time there is a family member that is here one moment and gone the next, like an oilfield accident or an auto accident.”

Austin said the financial assistance is necessary for people that may not have insurance or those that are swamped with either medical bills or funeral expenses.

“If someone wants counseling, they should be able to get it and financial situations should not get in the way of that,” King said.

King said she found grounding through the grief counseling services and plans on holding a racquetball tournament Friday through Sunday at the Midland YMCA to raise funds for Cole’s Grace Project as a token of her appreciation.

Residents have quickly signed up to participate in the tournament and only three spots were available for purchase as of Monday afternoon.