It caught my eye as I drove past the local high school. “Parent Mental Health Night” flashed on the digital display board. I don’t have a child there anymore, my youngest is a senior in college. But as a mental health advocate, my curiosity was peaked.
I checked it out online and reserved my seat for Monday night’s meeting. The city’s Youth Commission organized the entire event and a movie theater donated the space.
As we arrived, groups of teens welcomed us and checked us in. I settled into my seat and looked around. I was happy to see how many people showed up.
The first speaker explained that the Youth Commission formed last year and made decisions on which upcoming projects they wanted to focus on. They felt the number one concern for youth is mental health. The number one concern.
They got to work and developed Parent Mental Health Night and also a separate evening just for teens later in the month. To say I was impressed is an understatement.
The lights in the theater dimmed and we watched about ten minutes of an award winning movie, based on a true story. The film is called “No Letting Go.” It’s about a teenager struggling with bipolar disorder and how his mental illness affects the entire family. His parents desperately try to save their son, while keeping the rest of the family together.
After the film, a panel of professionals were ready to speak. There were psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, the head of the county’s youth outreach program, the county’s executive director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and the police chief. They discussed anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
I couldn’t get a phrase out of my head. It takes a village to raise a child.
These community organizations came together to openly discuss the importance of mental health and the challenges of mental illness. A step in the right direction. A step toward ending the stigma.
On that night, in that theater, mental health was literally put in the front row. No longer shoved to the back of the room.
It was captivating when the young adults on the panel spoke. In their late teens and twenties, they each gave a testimonial about their struggle with mental illness.
One boy’s anxiety became severe when he was a junior, dealing with the pressures of high school and getting into college. One girl was hospitalized with depression. Another girl hid her eating disorder for years. One young man with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia was hospitalized numerous times.
They all had one thing in common. It was hard for them to admit their problem to family and friends. Because of stigma.
Often mental health conditions are kept secret because the individuals or family members are embarrassed or ashamed. One speaker said, “Pretending there isn’t a problem only makes the stigma worse.” So true.
The police chief was the final speaker. He explained the importance of having officers CIT trained. Crisis Intervention Training. Many of the domestic calls involve someone with a mental illness and CIT officers know how to handle those cases. Currently, 70% of the police force in our county are CIT trained. The goal is 100%.
Something else the police chief said made a huge impact. He talked about how officers monitor social media. They search Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more.
One night a teenage girl was on Instagram and said she was going to kill herself. Officers found her post and called her parents in the middle of the night. They were sound asleep and had no idea. That girl was helped in time, thanks to those police officers.
It takes a village.
First image courtesy of here
Second image courtesy of here