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Sex trafficking is a serious problem in Texas, said Nathaly Hernandez, a bilingual case manager for Mosaic Family Services.
Research indicates that the targeting of individuals with mental health problems seems to be a contributing factor. Hernandez said students could learn ways they could identify human trafficked victims while Mental Health Counselor Katie Neff promoted “community building with art” which focused on ways to address mental health problems.
Knowing what Trafficking is and how those with mental health are affected by it is important to students because “Dallas is the second largest hub for trafficking in Texas, and Texas is second largest trafficking hub in America” said Hernandez.
That is why Eastfield dedicated a day of mental health week, where events and lectures explored mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, to discuss human trafficking and its impact on mental health.
Trauma from human trafficking can be devastating and can cause physical and psychological damage, according to a state department report in 2016.
Foreign women make up the majority of trafficked persons in Texas according to the U.S. Department of human Services. The department reports that as of 2017 the total amount of victims categorized as highly likely of being trafficked is 4,850 as of June 30, 2017.
Women made up 354 of the 433 cases reported this year with men making up the other 70 cases.
Traffickers seek out impressionable people even in public, Hernandez said.
“Trafficking can happen anytime and anywhere,” Hernandez said. “Even at your local mall.”
Hernandez said traffickers often prey on people who show signs of mental health problems, like depression and anxiety because “their easy targets,” said Hernandez.
If you suspect someone you know may be being taken advantage of you can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-3737-888.
Other ways to fight against the dangers of trafficking is to promote awareness about the need for mental health and positive environments where individuals can foster good mental health habits.
Neff was adamant about the importance of mental health week. She helped organize the International day of the Girl event, as well as the community building with art event on Oct. 13, which featured tables where students could come relax with art.
“Activities like today are important because of how prevalent anxiety and depression are in our society, especially with the younger generation,” Neff said.
Activities like community art building are almost always beneficial, Neff said. It allows the campus to help strengthen awareness of the dangers of mental health illness.
Yazmin Lopez a political science major, agreed.
“Art allows me to be more free and less stressed” said Lopez. “With what we as students are seeing in the news, art helps to be more positive and allows us to communicate our creative side.”
Neff hopes that Eastfield will continue to encourage mental health awareness.
“I hope Eastfield invests more in mental health week, we need a balance of education and specialized events like this one today,” Neff said.