Majority of voters want Houston’s next mayor to focus on mental health, poll finds

Nearly half of respondents to the poll reported experiencing some level of anxiety, depression, or both, while 80% said they want the next mayor to focus on mental health as a matter of public policy.

Young man dealing with depression and social anxiety.

Houstonians are increasingly concerned about mental health, and an overwhelming majority want it to be a focus for their next mayor. That's the finding of a new poll, in which a wide range of residents reported problems with anxiety and depression.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters responding to the Houston Public Media/Houston Chronicle/UH Political Science and Population Health Poll reported experiencing some level of anxiety, depression, or both. And 80% of respondents said they want the next mayor to focus on mental health.

"This is a public policy issue that needs more attention. It's something that the next mayor will have to pay significant attention to it," said UH political scientist Jeronimo Cortina, who co-authored the poll. "It's a crosscutting issue for a diverse number of voters in terms of ideology, in terms of age, in terms of race and ethnicity, education, income, so on and so forth."

Cortina said the mayor has considerable discretion to address mental health as a public health concern. Moreover, since Houston voters approved Proposition A, city councilmembers now have expanded powers to do so as well. The recent charter amendment allows any three city councilmembers to place an item on the agenda, with or without the mayor's approval.

"It requires a consistent intervention on behalf of the city, mayor and city council, and needs to be addressed, so on and so forth," he said, "because at the end, being anxious or being depressed, what not, has very important health outcomes for individuals, and if you look at other, important health outcomes at the population level as well."