Crossroads between public safety, mental health at the heart of Oceanside event

Public safety and mental health go hand in hand – that was the message at the Many Faces of Public Safety event held Wednesday at the Star Theater in Oceanside.

“Today’s event is to bring people together in concerted efforts to engage in problem-solving dialogue and partnerships on how to improve society for all, through mental health language,” said Oscarin Ortega , founder of Lived Experiences.

The event was organized by the North County organization, which provides support to underserved communities. Speakers at the event discussed mental health and the barriers that keep people from seeking help.

“In many cultures, including mine, if I were to tell someone, ‘Hey, you need to go talk to someone,’ it’s almost like I told them. Like I said bad words or profanity to them,” Beto Vasquez said.

He does community work for UC San Diego and encourages talking about mental health.

“The more we have these conversations in public, the more we normalize that mental health is just as important as your physical health,” Vasquez said.

Talking about mental health is one step, but having professionals in the field is another hurdle, says Beatriz Villarreal, director of the Mano a Mano Foundation.

“We have a huge need right now…it’s very hard to find someone who is culturally sensitive, who understands where you’re coming from, not just someone who speaks Spanish,” she said. “It’s someone who really understands where you’re coming from.”

Speakers shared experiences and information with audiences including Oceanside Police Chief Fred Armijo.

“In a way, it made me wish that something like this (event) could be something that more of my entire department can experience. Not because I think my department needs it, but everyone can benefit from it,” he said. “But I’d like to see the interactions between the people here and the connection that could take place.”

Armijo said mental health is an important topic to discuss because the calls his department receives almost always have a mental health component.

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