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Diversifying the Mental Health Conversation

Cole Gee
A look at one Links Incorporated community mental health events

A look into Links Incorporated, and the various work they do to support Black Wacoans mental health.

Links Incorporated is an association made up of African American women with an emphasis of community support, who are currently trying to start a dialogue about the lack of proper mental health care for struggling Black Wacoans.

Cris Houston, an attorney by trade and member of Links Incorporated, is the leader behind this effort. Cris had initially started her mental health projects alongside her church and other Black locals in September, but Links themselves have been doing work since COVID.

Cris: “I witnessed firsthand the mental health pandemic that sprang up alongside the coronavirus pandemic, and I witnessed firsthand the disparate access to health care that Black and Brown people had across the nation and world.”

Cris: “That was the catalyst for me suggesting that the links embark upon a journey of providing free mental health literacy resources for the black community in Waco."

Mental health access over the last few years has been a pressing issue in Texas. As statistics show, In McLennan County the suicide rate is higher than other Texas counties at a rate of 15.04% compared to 13.26% per 100k residents. Another worrying statistic is the fact that the rates of depression in McLennan County are at 22.6%, compared to the 22.1% per 100k residents of other Texas counties.

Cris isn't the only one noticing these statistics. Felise Bressler is the president of Baylor's Active Minds organization, a group dedicated to assisting local Wacoans and Baylor students with their mental health.

Felise: "A lot of times people want to put on a front of, like I'm always good. I'm always OK, like, no worries”, says Felise. “But we're just wanting to make sure that when people may face a difficult situation, they know what to do, they know who to turn to and they know their resources”.

Unfortunately for many Black Wacons simply finding a therapist is another massive hurdle to get past. Which is why Cris and Links have begun creating a list of all the Black mental health professionals they can find in Waco.

Cris: “ In that initial work that kicked off in September of 2023, we began putting that list together. Do you know we've only found three African American male therapists to date? There may be a few more, but we have found three."

This lack of support and resources has made the work Links Incorporated has done so valuable to Black Wacoans across the city. Last month they held an event called 'Healing Through Cinema,' which looked to open a dialogue about PTSD and Trauma through movies. Afterwards, Cris stated that many attendees were in tears and others were emotional during their table talk.

Links still has 2 events planned in partnership with Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network. One on May 9th in honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month, and the second will be in early October in honor of International Mental Health Awareness Day.

“We are partnering with Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network to provide the community with access to a free, day-long mental health first aid certification courses”, says Cris.

“That course teaches people how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges among adults."

For more information, you can follow Links Incorporated on Facebook and visit their website

If you or someone you know are in an immediate mental crisis, contact the Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988.