The National Council’s Top 5 Conversations of 2015
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is the opportunity to engage with the staff of member organizations and the people treated by those organizations. When traveling around the country, I truly look forward to the conversations we have. Another way I try to engage is with written conversations — offering new information and points of view — and sometimes that can mean uncomfortable conversations.
Here’s a look back at five discussions that resonated in 2015.
- Asylum or Warehouse was a blog in response to a piece by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and two co-authors that suggested recreating asylums — my reaction was immediate. Having witnessed the imbalance of power in state hospitals and the resulting neglect and abuse, I found this a dangerous suggestion. The post generated a lot of comments. Some responded that “reinstitutionalization” is “anti-recovery.” One reader said, “The importance of mental health care services must be emphasized. And access to such care must be readily available to all.” The conversation continued in Orlando during NatCon15 when Dr. Emanuel and Dr. Lloyd Sederer, Medical Director of the New York State Office of Mental Health, hotly debated the issue.
- Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (and a Mental Health First Aid partner), and I co-authored, Can Suicide be Prevented? Suicide is a public health crisis – the only one of the ten leading causes of death that is still rising. Someone in this country dies by suicide every 12.8 minutes. Some of you commented that you were unsure if suicide is preventable, others shared welcomed reminders of hope, like “You never know when you might save a life.” In fact, suicide is preventable, and knowing the risk factors for suicide and who is at risk can reduce the suicide rate. In fact, suicide is preventable. Join the National Council’s “Be 1 in a Million Campaign” and get trained in Mental Health First Aid.
- Is the Problem Cultural Incompetence or Racism? tackled an often uncomfortable issue that we try to avoid – racism in our own organizations. And, you didn’t shy away from the uncomfortable. Many of you commented that it was a much-needed discussion and “a good place to start one of the most important conversations that health communities need to engage in on a larger, much broader scale.” One reader reminded us, “it is cultural incompetence AND racism in ourselves AND our systems that we must examine, evaluate and work to change for the next generation.” Join us in March at NatCon16 as we continue this critical conversation.
- For Veterans Day, Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and I wrote Deadlier than War: Veterans Remain At-Risk. Together, we want to go beyond a simple “thank you” to those who serve our nation and urge people to do something tangible to make a difference. It prompted many of you to ask how you can help. And, you shared supportive messages like, “it’s not a sign of weakness but of strength to admit you could use a little help.” The result for me is that I’m now serving on the board of the newly expanded Cohen Veterans Network that is partnering with 15 communities across the country to develop treatment centers for veterans and their families.
- Most recently, I wrote Stop Locking Up People with Mental Illness, and I’m grateful that the piece was shared many, many times. The statistic — more Americans with a mental illness or addiction reside in jail and prison than in health care institutions — shocked many, prompting comments on the “appalling and disgraceful” state of our prison system. One reader summed it up perfectly: “It has taken society so long to understand the relationship between mental illness, substance abuse and the incarceration of our most vulnerable.” The National Council has advocated long and hard for one solution to this very complex problem – Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). Created under the Excellence in Mental Health Act, CCBHCs can offer treatment alternatives to the mass incarceration of people with mental illnesses and addictions.
While it remains to be seen what 2016 will hold, we’ve put together an Out and In List that shares where we think the year will take us. What do you think will be most talked about in 2016?
I always look forward to hearing from you. Tell me below and tweet at me @Linda_Rosenberg.