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Out Loud: A column by Laura Colvin



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September 22, 2010 - I read a sad tale recently about an elementary school-age child who endures both physical and verbal cruelty from Mom on a daily basis, but smiles politely when questioned by police about what goes on in the home, and about where the scratches and bruises came from.

The tale - police report, rather - told of the home's strong urine smell, and about how deputies listened as the child talked about making dinner ever night out of fear Mom would burn the house down.

The child lives in Orion, parenting Mom, who can't parent anyone because she's suffering from mental health issues.

That report struck me as particularly sad, and a bit more extreme than many, but I read similar stories in those reports all the time - welfare checks, attempted suicides, family trouble, people, both adults and children, hurting, right here in Orion.

Most of those don't end up in a little paragraph on page 12 of this paper every week, quite simply, because those issues are none of your business - or mine. Hurting families don't need their problems splashed in the newspaper for folks to read aloud at dinner: "Wow, listen to this - 'A 50 year old woman living in the 100 block of Any Street was transported to the hospital Monday after her husband arrived home to find her unconscious in bed with an empty prescription bottle nearby.'"

But I see them all the time, same as I saw them all the time in Clarkston, and I'm beginning to think keeping those kinds of reports out of the paper perpetuates a problem. And it's not just me, no papers report on those kinds of things.

But if these things aren't talked about, no one knows they exist. And if no one knows they exist, people who are suffering feel alone, and aren't likely to seek help.

That's why the arrival of '1,000 Conversations about Mental Health in Lake Orion' is a good thing - a great thing - for the community. It's not just about adolescents, it's not just about suicide, it's not just about 'mental illness.'

The goal of 1,000 Conversations is to assemble a group of "Community Partners" and equip them with the resources, knowledge and comfort level to have conversations about mental health.

I'm one of those partners. I've whole-heartedly signed on with the group - even volunteered to chair the Outreach Committee - to help out anyway I can.

Some in the group are mental health professionals, but most are not - and that's OK, because no one's aiming to analyze anyone, provide therapy or medicate your neighbor's problems away (although the group is working to put together a network of resources for those who want them).

We just want to put out a message that says 'Hey, it's OK to talk about this. You're not alone.'

We're going to work as a team - and you're invited - over the next two years to promote awareness and education in order to help de-stigmatize the idea of "mental health" and encourage those who want or need help to seek it.

If you'd like to know more, check out www.mindsprogram.org and click on the link for 1,000 Conversations, or call me at 248-693-8331 for more information.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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