Nov Retreat: Everyone is a Stakeholder in Mental Health Care

I came in this weekend, tired from waking up early to help load up my cross country team’s bus to go to a meat that I couldn’t even attend, stressed from the chemistry test I took on Thursday and nervous to stand up in front of twenty-some smart, critical kids and pitch an idea I had really only half-formed in my mind. Yet, I was still excited to be here. I loved hearing everyone’s pitches and seeing the broad spectrum of issues they covered. I found it so fascinating that a group of kids this small could be so driven to make so many different changes.

At dinner, we had a lot of really interesting discussions. We talked about how mental health and addiction feed into each other. It was really amazing to hear from everyone else who had been thinking of topics related to the health of Vermonters. I was more fired up about my topic than ever, which was mostly due to the conversations I’d had and heard throughout the day. I was finally starting to see where the topic of mental health care could take, not just me, but my whole group. We talked about all the possibilities that we had been given. We talked about everything that we were excited to do with this amazing opportunity.

In the morning, we’d broken up into groups and my group seemed so excited to get started. It was hard in the beginning with, about a hundred ideas flying about everywhere, but once we got them down on paper it seemed clear that we had a definite direction. We wanted to educate people on appropriate language, strip away the stigma, and draw attention to those who have been made invisible by the imperfections in our current mental health care system. Of course, we’ve got a long way to go, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

We decided to make a docu-drama, highlighting how mental illness can affect anyone in the whole world and how, in a way, everyone’s life can be drawn back to it. We also want to conduct interviews and gain perspective from outsiders, insiders, experts, and people who have first-hand experience battling their own mental illness. In order to maintain an unbiased perspective, we need to find as many different viewpoints as possible, whether we agree with them or not.

In the end, I think it will be hard to find someone who isn’t biased at all. Whether they think that mental illness is a disease, a weakness, or a simple personality trait, everyone is a stakeholder when it comes to mental health care because, as shown by statistics, everyone in the United States loves someone with a mental illness of some sort, whether they know it or not. And mental illnesses, when left undiagnosed or not properly taken care of, can be fatal.

This weekend has only gotten me more excited about the issues surrounding mental health care in Vermont. I can’t wait to see what comes of this.

Maisie Newbury

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