FORT SMITH, Ark. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a Fort Smith mom grieving the loss of her second daughter to suicide wants to encourage anyone with mental health issues to get the help they need.
"It was like a revolving door at first to get the help she needed at first. But we were finally able to get her the help," said Heather Mendez.
Mendez's daughter, Takemi, ended her life 10 days ago after struggling with mental illness. She was just 32 years old. That day would've been her other daughter, Evangelina's, birthday. Evangelina lived with bipolar disorder, and less than two years ago, she took her own life at 29. Their mother is now advocating for mental health awareness to prevent parents from going through the same pain she is.
"Without getting the help you need, it can lead to more problems, and I really encourage that anybody that needs help to seek it because they really need to find what they need for themselves," she said.
Mendez says Takemi lived with Schizophrenia Effective Disorder and Multi-Personality Disorder. She underwent treatment at "The New Center," where she received day treatment and found help at the crisis stabilization unit.
"When she first got sick, I don't think that was available at the beginning, so it's nice to see where our community is now. It's not where it used to be, but it's still not where it used to be, but it's still not where it needs to be," she said.
Officer Sheri Taylor is a Crisis Intervention Police Officer for the Fort Smith Police Department. There are three crisis intervention police officers who look over reports for anyone who has needed officer assistance for suicide attempts or drug abuse. They then go out and meet with them and give them the help they need.
"It doesn't matter what type of call it is, we are going to encounter people that are have a mental health issue or are in crisis, and we as officers need to know how to respond to that and just to help the person function in a daily life," said Taylor.
Mendez says if telling her story helps just one person, she will be thankful. Takemi Mendez's funeral is Thursday, May 26, at 1 p.m. at Evangel Temple Assembly of God in Fort Smith.
There are several fundraisers to help the Mendez family with funeral expenses. There is a dinner benefit at the Central Mall community room on Saturday, May 21, at 1 p.m. There is also a raffle at JK Liquidation Outlet for a patio set. Raffle tickets are $5 and can be purchased through CashApp at $MHUERTA89 or in-person on Saturday, May 21, at the store.