Column: Looking for change on mental health

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Commentary by Todd Zimmerman

One hundred and fifty-seven. Reflect on that number as you read on. Mental health is not something we openly discuss. The majority of people do not feel comfortable sharing anxieties, feelings of depression or suicidal thoughts. Despite being uncomfortable with the topic, we must courageously take this conversation on.

Our community, and every community around the country, is dealing with the results of mental health challenges. One hundred and fifty-seven is the number of immediate detentions the Fishers Police Department made because someone expressed a desire to hurt themselves or someone else in 2014.

Last fall, Mayor Fadness called me away from the crowd and said, “We need to address mental health in our community. This is important to me and I know it’s important to you. We need to do something of substance that makes a lasting impact.” It was obvious this was coming from the heart, without regard for politics, not in front of people for accolades. Instead, it came from his desire to challenge the norm – to address 157 head-on.

Lasting, true change does not occur because of government. It occurs when people rise up and say “Enough!” The facts are that we have an enemy that does not respect distinctions. Mental illness hits all ages, races and economic classes … it can and does impact anyone.

The question becomes, how can we create a safe space where one can share life’s challenges without being pushed away? It starts with us. Beginning in our homes, we can create that change. Once homes are safe places of honest discussion, those homes then create neighborhoods that watch out for each other. Do you have a neighbor that struggles with depression? Chances are you do.

Hamilton Southeastern Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff asked me a striking question, “Where are the clergy in this issue?” Not that long ago it was a partnership of home, church and school that guided our young people to adulthood. That partnership still has tremendous potential.

Religious leaders, we are asking for your help. You have the capacity to transform the city through open and honest dialogue about mental health. One suicide is too much. However, I would push that even further. One person consumed with dark depression and anxiety is too much. Every life matters, every person is important. We are asking you to become part of our next step in starting this conversation in our community, and join us for a Mental Health Religious Leaders Lunch Forum on Dec. 16 at City Hall.

I want change. However, this change cannot take place at City Hall. The police cannot fix this. The real change will occur in our neighborhoods, at our places of worship, in the office and around the dinner table. I entered politics because of a desire to create lasting impact…not momentary hype. Will you join in this journey? It will not be easy. Although, is anything important in life easy? The 157 immediate detentions from last year cannot be recalled, but we do not have to let that happen again.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-20

 


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