Houstonians speaking out to support those suffering a mental health crisis

According to the CDC, a significant number of adults and children have reported struggling with mental health during the pandemic. In this Positively Houston, some Houstonians are letting those people know they are not alone.

17-year-old Beto Valenzuela is speaking out one garment at a time. 

"I wanted to do something that could really change the community in a fundamental way." 

So the teenager came up with optimistic apparel. 

"Basically focuses on inspiring more positive mental health conversations through the sayings we have on our t-shirts. One of my favorite ones is, 'It’s ok to not be ok.' Being quarantined at home seemingly nobody to talk to, I felt very lonely. That’s when something clicked," Valenzuela explains. 


The Houston high schooler would help others make it over mental health hurdles simply by creating clothing conversation starters. 

"I think that’s a problem we have right now in our society. We’re too scared to talk about our emotions and how we feel with other people. That’s kind of what really sparked me starting all this," the 17-year-old says and his Spark Apparel clothing line was born. 100% of the proceeds go to mental health research.

"There’s a lot of uncertainty that’s going on right now and it appears that people are just trying to find their way," says Built 4 Agility Public Safety Advisor Lance Watkins. The non-profit group, Built 4 Agility, is a team of mental health advocates addressing stress from the pandemic and social injustices. The group is offering mental health help through free virtual visits at churches, companies, and other organizations. 


"We only feel it’s the responsible thing to do, to have professionals that are part of those conversations that can respond effectively," says Built 4 Agility Founder Dr. Marie Alcazar. "What I love about it is, it’s a safe space. Once you hear one person speak about their trauma or what they’re feeling, we all want to speak about it," says Erline Maingot with Built 4 Agility. 

"In my situation, my son went off to college and had some really, really deep issues with anxiety and depression," Dr. Lisa Ghiloni with Turning Point Psychiatry explains. 

That's actually the reason Dr. Ghiloni started her practice, Turning Point Psychiatry in Sugar Land. We caught up with her as she took off her workwear and put on her humanity hat to support a young lady who was checking into a drug rehabilitation center. 

"Just going a little extra for people goes a long way." 


Dr. Ghiloni says she’d like to see all of us pitch in to help those who are struggling, as things slowly get back to normal. One good way to make sure we’re checking on our loved ones mental health is to do what she and her friends started months ago. 

"During the pandemic, we’ve made an effort to get on a Zoom and have our hour each month to just check-in and see what’s going on," explains Dr. Ghiloni who also reminds us, only texting loved ones may not give an accurate account of what they’re feeling. For instance, if someone texts "I’m good" after you ask how they are. You won’t see their face and hear the sadness in their voice if they’re actually saying one thing, but meaning another. So don’t forget about video phone calls.

You can buy a t-shirt from Beto at sparkapparel.org, schedule a virtual visit with Built 4 Agility at built4agility.org, or an appointment with Dr. Ghiloni at www.turningpointpsychiatry.com.