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Intersection between public safety, mental health on focus at Oceanside event

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Tania Thorne
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KPBS
Pictured, a t-shirt that reads, "Mental Health = Public Safety" from the Lived Experiences mental health community event in Oceanside, Calif. Aug. 10, 2022.

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 Theatre in Oceanside.

"Today's event is to bring people together in collaborative efforts to have a dialogue on problem-solving and partnerships on how to improve society for all, through the mental health language," Lived Experiences founder Oscarin Ortega said.

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

"In many cultures, including my own, if I were to tell somebody, 'Hey, you need to go talk to somebody,' that's almost like I told them off. Like I said bad words or profanity to them," Beto Vasquez said.

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

"The more we have these conversations out 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, Mano a Mano Foundation director Beatriz Villarreal said.

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

Speakers shared experiences and information with an audience that included Oceanside police Chief Fred Armijo.

"In one sense, it made me wish that something like this (event) could be something that more of my whole department can experience. Not because I think my department needs it, but everybody can benefit from it," he said. "But I would love to see the interactions amongst the folks here and the connectedness that could take place."

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

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