It isn't too late to become involved in the broad statewide discussion on mental illness this weekend, with groups gathering in four cities to discuss means of eradicating stigma and removing barriers to treatment.
"We don't understand mental illness and it scare us, just like polio did so many decades ago," said Diane Mulligan, project director of Creating Community Solutions Colorado. "We can change that. We can make a huge difference."
Mulligan said more than 60 organizations had signed on to collaborate with those who are diagnosed with mental illness and mood disorders, their families and community members. Saturday's meetings in Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Glenwood Springs will seek to identify priorities for funded action plans which will be put forward at another set of meetings in May.
The public is invited to each session, and interested persons can RSVP on Facebook.
In Colorado Springs, organizers are expecting more than 200 people Saturday, including individuals living with mental illness, their families, mental health providers, members of the faith community, military and students, said coordinator Carol Scott.
The meetings are part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health, established by the Obama administration in the wake of the elementary school shootings in Connecticut and other tragic events, including the Aurora theater shootings.
The National Dialogue harkens back to President John F. Kennedy's call to Congress in 1963 to confront mental illness, which, he said at the time, was the nation's most costly public health problem.
"In the half century since, we've made tremendous progress as a country when it comes to attitudes about mental health," wrote Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, in a USA Today commentary. "But recent events have reminded us that we still have a long way to go to bring mental health fully out of the shadows once and for all."
The Creating Community Solutions Colorado's Facebook page offers its own sobering reminders of the high cost of inaction, including four teen suicides in Douglas County earlier this year. In one of those incidents, a 15 year old killed his mother before killing himself. There is also a poignant student-made video in response to those events.
The lineup for Saturday, April 5:
- History Colorado Center, Denver, from 8:30 a.m. - noon.
-Berger Hall, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, from 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
-Fort Collins Marriott, Fort Collins, from 10 a.m. - noon.
-Glenwood Springs Branch Library, Glenwood Springs, from 2:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.