TYLER, Texas (KETK) — Everything is bigger in Texas, including its problems.

“Our mental health system in America is a scandal,” said Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Adults in the state have lower rates of access to care and a high prevalence of mental illness.

According to Mental Health America, Texas ranks last in America in access to mental healthcare. Quality, high costs and workforce shortage could also be to blame.

“It’s very common. Especially, whenever there are high levels of stress,” said Ana Serratos, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic. “So, then we tend to have high levels of cortisol and once we have those high levels, then we can exhibit a lot of the symptoms similar to anxiety or depression.”

In the wake of the Uvalde massacre, some politicians have dismissed the talk of gun control stressing mental health is the real culprit.

“There is an urgency here that we need to accomplish,” said Republican Senator of Louisiana, Bill Cassidy.

In September of 2022, Texas Health and Human Services put together a team dedicated to specifically to rural mental health. The team aims to give a voice to the unique challenges rural Texans face in accessing mental healthcare.

“One in five adults in the U.S., I would say the most common, is anxiety and depression,” Serratos said. “Those are the ones that catch most of the manifestation of those symptoms. That’s the referral I get, but when I do my own assessment, I come to find out they’ve had a recent death loss.”

So, where do people turn? Last year, 60% of adults with a mental illness, and 50% of youth, ages eight to 15, did not receive treatment.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than one-third of adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or a major depressive disorder between Sept. 29 – Oct. 11, 2021.

“I think there’s less of a stigma associated with saying that you need mental healthcare,” said Federal Programs and Counseling Services Coordinator for Henderson ISD, Wakita Lamb.

As mental healthcare is being destigmatized, waiting lists grow longer, leaving many people lacking resources for the time being.

Nationwide, psychiatrists are also needed and the shortage is only predicted to double by 2025. Currently, we sit at 6.4%.

“That actually evolved after we went through the pandemic where we saw that people’s mental health issues were exacerbated by the isolation… we saw an uptick in incidents that stemmed from mental health issues,” Lamb said.

The rates for individuals screening with moderate to severe rates of anxiety are higher than the number recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to KFF.

To tackle these concerns, 2022’s Bipartisan Communities Act provided $800 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Funds from the U.S. Department of Education are dedicated to Mental Health Services in Texas schools.

“If you want to call it a collective trauma of that of living through that, being taken away from all of us for such an extended period of time, I think, you know, we’ll continue to see the impacts of that for a while to come,” said Associate Professor of Counseling at UT Tyler, Dr. Erin West.

This presents an opportunity to spotlight a topic that shouldn’t be in the dark anymore and a conversation that should be had often, to continue breaking the stigma.

Professionals say that people who are in an emergent mental health crisis should go to their nearest emergency room for assistance or call the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988.

For tips on where to start in finding mental health resources, click here.

This is part one of a five-part special report on the subject of mental health. Use the links below to catch up on the series: