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Campaigning for Compassion

How does a community begin to engage in honest and productive conversations about mental health? 

Let’s begin by talking about our stories, our struggles, our recovery.  As clinicians, advocates, family and community members, it is time for us to come together and talk about some of our successes and powerful stories of recovery.  While there are devastating and excruciating losses, more often, there are the untold stories of people quietly living successfully with mental illness.  These are the faces of hope and recovery.  What does it look like?  Honestly, it looks like you.  Like me.  Like your neighbor, friend, mother, father, friend.  People have a mental illness; they are not defined by it.  

Once we change our perception of mental health, we can have dialogue without stigma.  Many of the devastating stories surrounding persons with mental illness stem from feelings of shame.  What if we remove this shame?  What if we didn’t whisper about it or use stigmatizing words in our daily language?  Perhaps this could help open the door for people to seek the necessary treatment for their illness. 

Last weekend National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) http://namimetsub.org, held their annual spring gala.  They welcomed The Second City Improv All Stars to perform “An Evening of Laughter and Hope.”  Nearly 200 guests joined to laugh (yes, laughter at a mental health event) at Second City’s wickedly funny (and almost always appropriate) performance, but also to celebrate. 

The Second City Actors ended with a song, 

NAMI VERSE

To all the heroes here tonight, thanks to all you do 

It’s clear the world’s a better place, all because of you

And in a perfect world there’d be affordable mental health treatment as you please 

CHORUS

You are NAMI 

Your drive and commitment is stealth 

You’re making Chicago a better place

Kicking butt in mental health  

Riveredge Hospital http://www.riveredgehospital.com, MacNeal Hospital http://www.macneal.com/Home.aspx, and Unity Temple http://www.utrf.org were among the many community sponsors. To have Oak Park Chief of Police, Rick Tanksley and Unity Temple Reverend Taylor serve as emcees was a wonderful and symbolic representation of how different organizations, if aligned, can change communities’ impressions about safety, compassion and mental health.

During the last week of mental health month, Riveredge is proud to announce that we have received a grant from SAMSHA http://www.samhsa.gov, awarded to organizations who are leading the way in implementation of trauma informed care.  This training (date soon tba) is presented by, Raul Almazar, a national expert in the six principles of trauma informed care, as well as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist.  Having been fortunate enough to see this presentation before, we used to describe it as career changing, but we believe the better descriptor, is life-changing.  William Kellibrew, a trauma survivor, shares his heroic journey of recovery and resilience.   His story includes abuse, witnessing the horrific and violent deaths of his brother and mother and a long struggle with depression.  Ultimately, triumphantly and poignantly, he outlines his experience with recovery.  Please visit our website http://www.riveredgehospital.com or contact Ginny Trainor, (708) 488-4970 to learn more details about this incredibly powerful and moving upcoming training experience. http://www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/william-kellibrew-iv

There is no finish line.  When we heal, we haven’t “arrived.”   It is a process.   It is a journey.  There are setbacks and losses.  But when a community honestly opens the conversation, we inspire hope and compassion for this journey. 

May is Mental Health Month – let us reflect in kind….

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