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Community Forum Focuses on Mental Health

Jan 17

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Thursday, January 17, 2013  RssIcon

from The Star Press 

MUNCIE — The time is now for the community to break the stigma often surrounding mental health, according to Bob Coles of Meridian Health Services.

On Jan. 23, Coles will be a part of the “Protecting our children” community forum, a time to openly discuss concerns regarding mental health in Delaware County.

After the shootings in Newtown last month, mental health professionals wanted to address mental health issues in a larger format — especially the faulty belief that people with these behavioral issues are prone to violence.

The vice president for clinical services at Meridian Health Services, Coles has been a licensed clinical social worker for more than three decades and understands the complexities of depression, personality disorders, mood disorders and more.

“We wanted to address this now because of the tendency of people to connect mental health with violence, especially given what’s gone in the last few years with these mass shootings,” Coles said. “We want to let people know that, first, where to go if you feel you may need help or someone you know may need help and, second, that someone with depression or a personality disorder may not do these horrible things.”

Along with Coles and a doctor from Indiana University Health Riley Hospital for Children, four superintendents from local school corporations will also be on the panel, answering questions from the community, but also learning from each other about potential improvements to keep children safe.

“In general, our society has this sentiment of taking caring of things within the family and not going outside to fix things. We’re hoping people understand there are some things you need help with and we at area schools are here to help,” said Steven Hall, superintendent of Delaware Community Schools. “Sometimes students feel comfortable speaking to someone within the school and we will help, along with the folks from Meridian and other places in the area.”

School representatives will also remind community residents the steps they’re taking to keep children safe in emergencies.

“The (mental health) stigma can only be broken with discussion locally, and I applaud the people who wanted to move proactively on this,” said Jennifer Feick, executive director of Mental Health America of Delaware County. “We need to step up together to take care of these issues and keep everyone safe. A panel like this is a step toward that.” 

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