Feb 18, 2013

Mental health everywhere

Over the course of the weekend I met with mental health advocates, organizational development experts, community development experts, health care entrepreneurs and neighbors describing their vision for improving mental health throughout our communities. Here are the ideas that struck me as having the most potential for making a difference in people’s lives.

A book and a 5 step program that achieves for mental health what AA accomplished for sober recovery
Now everybody can help. The book delivers insight into what the reader is experiencing, and creates a path to recovery. It lets anyone screen for trouble, start a self-help group or deliver support when it’s needed. Frequent readers know I am talking about my own book, Defying Mental Illness. Learn more about it at www.churchbasement.net. (The blogger's privilege is to talk about his own stuff first.)

Have kids show off their ability to work through problems
Hold a class and competition for youth and young adult spoken word poets focused on the topic “what helps you get through adversity?” The answers in the poems might include exercise, spirituality, volunteering, mindfulness, gardening, music, sports and poetry. This program is already off the ground, with hundreds of YouTube videos and texts. Learn more at http://poetryforpersonalpower.com/

Build expertise around handling common difficulties
What if more people knew how to recognize and have a talk with people experiencing difficulties in their lives? They could look for
  • Past trauma experience
  • Lack of social connections
  • Job fit or career difficulty
  • Grief
  • Loss of hope
  • Disconnection with the Creator
  • Drug use
  • Nutrition, exercise or sleep habits.
The people who do the screening could have a basic chat, then connect the person to someone who has dealt with the particular situation in their own lives.

Connect people who are experiencing adversity with people who have made their way through it
People benefit from talking through problems. We can use technology to connect people who need to talk with someone who will listen and share how they made their way through it. Think of it as computer dating focused on support and achieving personal power.

These last three ideas come from Corinna West. Corinna’s programs approach mental health from a holistic and non-psychiatric perspective. A running theme is people achieving or regaining their personal power, which sounds great to me. Learn more about Corinna’s programs and her advocacy work at www.corinnawest.com. Follow her on twitter @corinnawest.

Create a home-based recovery network where visitors receive comfort and support
Skip the crowded noisy and expensive psych emergency room. Visit a neighbor, have a cup of tea, regain your composure, get back to work or school tomorrow.

This idea comes from Malaika Puffer, a Columbus-area mental health worker, advocate and blogger. Read her work at her blog Sort of Just a Person. She has a great post about existential angst. I wonder if there is a protocol for counseling for existential angst? Follow Malaika on Twitter @malaikapuffer.
I want to thank the people who helped us develop and define these ideas this past weekend.
Cincinnati organizational development Rex Lai helped us work beyond our conflicts over labels and approaches. He’s a great friend and colleague. Learn more about Rex at http://rexlai.org/ . Follow Rex on Twitter @RexyLai

Sunnie Southern is the creator of Innov8 for Health, a health care entrepreneurship expo and incubator. At this past weekend’s event over 150 ideas got pitched to judges from health care systems and venture capital firms. Learn more at www.innov8forhealth.com.

Liz Blume is the director of Xavier University’s Community Building Institute, which does asset-based community development work in the Cincinnati area. Learn more at http://www.xavier.edu/communitybuilding/
Clyde and Betty Richard have done training and job program work in Cincinnati for over four decades. Betty is the director of Winton Hills Opportunity Center. Clyde is the founder of Cincinnati Training Coalition.

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