Riverbend Community Mental Health Center to hold town hall on mental health

By CASEY McDERMOTT

Monitor staff

Monday, September 22, 2014 (Published in print: Monday, September 22, 2014)

Riverbend Community Mental Health Center is holding a town hall-style meeting on mental health in hopes that it will help spur an ongoing public conversation in the Concord area.

At 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Concord High School auditorium, Riverbend President and CEO Peter Evers will be joined by a panel of local leaders – New Hampshire Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes, Concord Hospital emergency room physician Mike Lynch, Rundlett Middle School Assistant Principal Heather Barker and N.H. Medical Director of the Bureau of Behavioral Health Mary Brunette – for a forum focused on “Making Connections for Healthy Minds.” The event is open to anyone, regardless of affiliation with the school, and Evers said he hopes it will be interactive; he stressed that audience participation is encouraged.

The range of perspectives represented on the panel should lend to a conversation that addresses mental health from a variety of angles, Evers said, and will underscore the widespread impact of these issues: in our schools, in our incarceration facilities, in our hospitals and elsewhere.

Those who attend will, Evers hopes, walk away more informed on what it means to be mentally ill and what it means to seek out treatment. Information on signs that someone might be in need of help will also be reviewed at the event, he said. Early intervention is critical, he added, and taking steps to connect a young person to treatment can quell problems that might arise if his or her illness goes undetected or untreated.

Riverbend, in its promotion of the forum, has noted that it was “inspired by national events.” Evers said it is, at least in part, a response to incidents like the attacks in Santa Barbara, Calif., earlier this year – when Elliot Rodger fatally stabbed three men and shot three others before killing himself, as previously reported by the Associated Press. Videos “regarding suicide and the killing of people” posted online by Rodger had prompted his family to contact authorities several weeks before the rampage, the Associated Press also reported. These and other developments around Rodger’s behavior led many to weigh in on whether he was in need of more serious mental health treatment and whether that might have prevented the attacks.

What Evers hopes to stress, in response to this or similar tragedies, is that someone with a mental illness is not inherently predisposed to harming others. Instead, he wants to focus on destigmatizing mental illness in hopes that it might lead people of all ages to seek out the help they need or to support others who might be struggling.

“It’s not just about kids,” Evers said. “It’s about everybody’s mental health.”

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or cmcdermott@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)