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Forum explores impact of mental illness

• Sep 21, 2018 at 4:00 PM

More than 60 people attended a town hall meeting earlier this week that explored the impact of mental illness on families and highlighted the film “Coming Up For Air.”

Barbara Lee VanHorssen, executive director of Extended Grace, facilitated Monday’s forum at the Grand Haven Community Center.

“Because of the stigma attached to mental illness, people don’t get the help they need when they need it,” she said. “Sixty-eight percent of people with a mental illness say that the stigma is harder to deal with than the actual illness.”

The meeting focused on educating the public about mental illness and what resources are available to them.

Roger Rapaport started the evening with clips from his film, which depicts the reality of a single mother in crisis mode, not knowing what path to take when her son goes into deep depression.

“We wanted to tell a story that people could learn from and connect with anywhere,” Rapaport said. “I never dreamed I’d be a producer of a film set in a town called Grand Haven.”

The scenes in the movie are set along the Michigan lakeshore, as well as in Wisconsin.

According to Lynne Doyle, executive director of Ottawa County Community Mental Health (CMH), the movie depicts a wide variety of real-world mental health issues. Doyle said we need to be transparent about mental illness, continue meaningful discussions and put our ideas into action.

Small and large group table discussions ensued with local politicians and community members, and representatives from CMH, National Alliance for Mental Illness and Department of Mental Health. Core questions brought forth many ideas to dismantle stigma, to best connect people with the resources they need, to educate the public on mental illness and suicide prevention through QPR Training, to normalize conversations about mental illness like any other topic, and to show respect and understanding to all people.

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