By Paul Gionfriddo, President/CEO, Mental Health America
The best news sometimes comes when we least expect it. And those of us who have been pushing for years for early identification and intervention in schools for kids with mental health concerns got some unexpectedly good news last month.
By Paul Gionfriddo, Mental Health America President/CEO
I was sitting at home doing some writing two years ago when I turned on the noontime news. There was only a small news item at first – there had been a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in Newtown, and there were at least a couple of confirmed casualties.
It hit home for me, because of my Connecticut roots, and I began to pay close attention. As the next few hours unfolded and the extent of the tragedy became known, I was shocked and horrified by what I learned.
I was sitting at my desk when the news broke on Friday afternoon that a fifteen year old student at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington had opened fire in the school cafeteria, killing at least one other student before taking his own life as well.
Another fourteen year old died over the weekend, bringing the death toll to three – all young teenagers.
Mental Health America hosted its 2014 Annual Conference in Atlanta last week, and it was a terrific and energizing event. Those who attended know what I’m talking about – the drive, the content, the messaging, the enthusiasm in the room – well, pretty much everything – suggested that in Mental Health America and its affiliates we have some of the most innovative, dedicated, and inspiring mental health advocates in the nation.
Here’s just a sampling of what transpired over the two days:
Robin Williams’ tragic and untimely death after a decades-long battle against bipolar disorder reminds us that mental illnesses are all-too-often serious and life-threatening chronic diseases.
Mental illnesses—especially serious ones—rob us of our health and well-being. They present daily challenges that can sometimes overwhelm us. No one is immune to them. And no matter how many resources they have or how successful they may appear to be, they may not ultimately be able to overcome them.
During my first hundred days at Mental Health America, I have frequently made the case that mental health policymakers and practitioners are too often mired in “Stage 4” thinking when they think about serious mental illnesses.
Here’s what I mean – they use an “imminent danger to self or others” as a standard for determining who gets care. That near-death time typically only comes during the latest stages of a chronic disease process, or Stage 4.
Patrick Hendry, Senior Director for Consumer Advocacy at Mental Health America, was presented the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Reintegration Lifetime Achievement award at its Annual Conference this past week.
The award, which is supported by Eli Lilly and Company, recognizes a mental health leader and champion who has devoted his/her life to helping persons with mental illness recover; achieve their goals; and live full, productive lives in the community.
Hendry is generously donating the $10,000 cash prize that accompanies the award to Mental Health America.