End The Stigma Workshop: Bringing Change To Mind About Mental Illness

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“It was the best event our club has ever put on,” said Colleen Fossett the day after the End the Stigma Against Mental Illness Workshop.  Colleen, co-founder of the MHWTC, was not the only one who walked away from this powerful night changed; a night where not a single eye stayed dry or a single heart wasn’t moved.

 

Over 80 people came to the workshop held in Rode’s Barn to support this year’s cause of eradicating the stigma and discrimination against mental illness.  This particular event was designed to raise awareness, increase compassion, spark dialogue, and further educate the public about mental health issues. The dynamic, informative, and emotional night was filled with personal stories as well as opportunities for Q and A with a panel of local experts. With the help of banners, signs and literature from Bring Change 2 Mind, one of the club’s fundraising recipients, the mood was set and the workshop began.

 

Lydia DelRosso stood under a banner that read “Do You Know What Inspires People With Mental Illness To Get Treatment? YOU!,” and kicked off the evening with a powerful introduction to the importance of this year’s cause. She talked about a time years ago when a certain illness was whispered about and hidden in shame.  A time when no one discussed their disease and put off seeking treatment.  A time when breast cancer was a taboo subject, scarcely spoken about in a public forum. It was not, Lydia emphasized, a topic that was discussed in the mainstream until Betty Ford went public with her own fight against Breast Cancer.

 

You can see how far we’ve come.

 

Now, the MHWTC joins the crusade to break down the barriers of stigma, silence, prejudice and discrimination surrounding mental illness. The End the Stigma Workshop was the first step in our journey together as a club of over 600 women with strong bodies, strong minds, and STRONG VOICES.

 

Those voices were heard that night.

 

Four exceptionally courageous women stood up and shared their stories, most for the very first time in a public forum.  Some speaking their words for the very first time ever.

 

Colleen moved us all with her personal story of being an 11-year-old girl suffering from a very severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and how with her mother’s love, a competent therapist, and her undeniable strength and perseverance, she made it through treatment successfully.

 

Andrea shared her very relatable story of going through a series of Major Depressive Episodes starting in adolescence.  She talked about how she never understood what was “wrong” with her, until in adulthood she finally received an accurate diagnosis and could get the proper, long-overdue treatment.

 

Kristine’s story was heart-wrenching, poignant and uplifting as she told her history of being a young girl raised by a mother who suffered from Schizophrenia.  The audience practically held their breath listening to what it was like living on the inside of a life that we so often don’t understand or have misconceptions about.

 

Kate ended the evening by bravely sharing a heart-wrenching story of her father’s depression and suicide only a few years ago.  Through tears that we all cried along side of her, she turned this story of tragedy into encouragement, understanding and awareness to try to help others who may find themselves in a similar position. She gave a plea to us all: To “speak up” and ask questions if we think something isn’t right with someone we love. She went on to say “I believe silence helps perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. People do not want to talk about these topics because they are uncomfortable, but we need to. We need to so that we can learn, discover, heal, cope, and survive.”

 

We would like to thank our panel of experts who were there to share their knowledge, answer audience questions, and provide personal consultation to those after the event:

 

Dr. Karen Saporito is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey providing consultative evaluations and treatment for children and adults.  You may contact her with further questions at karensaporito@me.com

 

Jackie Williams works as the coordinator for the Gloucester Regional Addictive Substances Prevention (GRASP) Coalition, a substance abuse prevention initiative of The Southwest Council, Inc.

 

Sarah Seabrook-deJong is a Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing with 20 years of experience working in various settings and age ranges.  She currently works as the Administrative Director for Behavioral Health at Inspira Health Network- Bridgeton Division. She is also a Psychiatric Consultant at the Center for Family Guidance.

 

Bridget DeFiccio is a licensed Professional Counselor with over 25 years of clinical experience. She has specialized in child and adult trauma and abuse survivors. Currently she works as the Director of the Danellie Outpatient Center of Robins Nest.

 

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Change a mind about mental illness and change a life. 

This event did just that. 

If you would like to learn more about eradicating the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness, please visit www.BringChange2Mind.org.

Missed the event?  Check in with our blog to read the personal stories that were shared at the workshop along with other member stories about how mental illness has touched their lives.

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