A lieutenant from the Sheriff’s Department might not be the first person you think of as a key speaker at a mental health awareness rally, but Lt. Brandon Barclay with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station expressed that this is another stigma that needs to be broken.
Barclay spoke at the “Stop the Stigma” event at Bridgeport Park on Saturday, which was organized by a local mental health nonprofit called Mental Health Hookup, which is dedicated to acting as a liaison between people who need mental health resources and the resources they need.
“It is extremely important for the Sheriff’s Department to be here because we are an integral part of this community for public safety and emphasizing service,” said Barclay. “The way the model is right now, what is oftentimes mental health calls are people experiencing significant crises, the reality is that they can be dangerous and law enforcement needs to be called.”
Barclay said the department is advocating for different models such as 988, which would serve as a mental health crisis hotline (similar to 911) that connects them to the appropriate resource needed for the situation.
“We don’t want the jail to become the largest mental health institution in the nation,” said Barclay. “We want to divert people with mental illness from the jails and get them the treatment and wraparound services that they need.”
Barclay also acknowledged the stigmas associated around mental health and said he hopes they can be challenged as well.
“People will be real quick to tell you if they have the flu, or a cold, or even COVID, but they’ll be hesitant to tell you they’re suffering with mental health issues,” said Barclay. “So I encourage everyone that’s experiencing that, especially post-COVID…to reach out and have the courage to say that ‘I need help.’”
Larry Schallert, assistant director for the mental health program at College of the Canyons and one of the event organizers, said changing how to label people with mental health disorders is part of breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health.
“There’s a lot of stigma attached to mental health,” said Schallert. “People think that if you have a mental health issue [that] you can’t recover or it defines who you are, and we know that’s not true.”
“We know, for instance, that people aren’t bipolar. They’re a person that has a bipolar disorder and we don’t say people are schizophrenic, we say ‘a person that suffers from schizophrenia,’” said Schallert. “So we want to be able to stop the stigma and make sure that people feel like it’s OK to get mental health services. It’s OK to not be OK.”
For more information on how to access mental health resources in the SCV, visit bit.ly/3Psrlcc.