Our mental health can be in a good phrase if we are happy, but in a different context, it has an extremely negative connotation. Let us strengthen the phrase and change the definition. What if we made Los Angeles the mental health capital of the world?
There is an insightful 2009 movie called the Soloist, starring Jamie Fox and Robert Downey, Jr., based on the lives of Nathaniel Ayers and Steve Lopez. Nathaniel is an extremely talented classical musician who suffers from schizophrenia. Steve Lopez who writes for the Los Angeles Times tells the story of how Nathaniel became homeless on the streets of Downtown LA. Years after watching the film while living downtown, I would still see Nathanial Ayers on the streets, playing his instrument. The Soloist is the story of many homeless. It could you be you or me, our children, or our neighbors; without the proper help and a support system, we are all vulnerable.
One suggested solution to homelessness has been to construct more housing. It is not a bad solution. In fact, it is a thoughtful one and, in most instances, it should have worked. We just cannot build enough, fast enough. The County’s homeless numbers have increase 12.7% to 66,436 from the last count in June of 2020 according to the Los Angeles Homeless Authority. This is even though the city has increased their budget to help the homeless. People from around the United States come to the city because of the weather and the services, and more are coming every year. in addition, people here end up on the street from mental instability, abuse, or bad luck. It is a radical idea, but we have spent millions of dollars on building new housing. What if we treat the cause and make Los Angeles a city of mental stability?
How do we do it? We increase our services, expand the program for trained social workers and healthcare providers to help more people on the streets, in schools, and in the community. We open more centers for those fighting abuse, and we create online and remote care facilities for others who are dealing with turmoil here and around the world.
It is expensive – yes. To increase these programs and create the infrastructure costs time and money. And so is building any type of real estate in California. The solution is not to stop building shelters or housing. Part of the way that we can solve this problem is to treat the underlying illness. We can direct new funds for Los Angeles to create a better infrastructure for mental health, and we do it at the local, community, street, and school level to make this city a beacon for mental stability – and not homelessness.