The BRC Mental Wellness Initiative came on board much later than a number of other 5450 committees, having its first official meeting in April, 2015. At that time, the club member championing the effort stated that her primary interest was in “reducing stigma and increasing compassion in regards to mental health issues.”
Where other clubs have quickly created local projects directly serving community members’ mental health needs, the BRC initiative has been more focused on making it socially acceptable to discuss mental wellness in the context of our club. Our thinking is that if/when individual members are more comfortable being open with each other about these issues, we will better support each other in times of stress. Furthermore, each of us may take that new more open and outwardly supportive attitude to our own broader circles of family, employment, church, and community. Perhaps this could be the ground level beginning of a worldwide change in attitude about mental health. (Admittedly, we are not the first to take this approach, as we are building on the works of Australian Rotarians, as well as Rotarians right here in District 5450.)
Toward that end, we have hosted speakers for our committee members and for our club members, addressing suicide prevention, vaccines for anxiety, county-wide public health efforts to address mental wellness and resilience in early childhood through young adulthood, crisis services, Mental Health First Aid Training, and alternatives to medicine and therapy for treating depression. We have also created a forum through which our own members can present their soapbox issues with regards to mental health; these have included recognizing that mental health issues are biological in nature (not character flaws or examples of moral weakness), pressuring physicians to be more cautious in prescribing meds that are potentially addictive, and looking at trauma-based care (which looks at “what happened to you” rather than “what’s wrong with you”), as well as many other themes.
Recently we introduced wristbands saying, “Let’s talk, I’ll listen” as a visible expression of our willingness to support each other and our intention of speaking of things that used to be kept secret.
Coming up, we will host a speaker for the whole club from Mental Health America in May, and we have several projects in the works, including a possible Mental Health First Aid Training for club members and several forums for getting Rotarians to share with each other the ways in which mental wellness is an issue that affects us all. We are also working on other forums for disseminating information and resources to our membership.