Mental HealthSolutions Journalism
The Voices In His Head Are Also Telling Us We Can Help Him
To Reverend Richard Reedy, the large crowd gathered at the Thelma Boltin Community Center in Gainesville was a room full of complete strangers. Despite this potentially unnerving situation, Reedy spoke about the daily struggles of living with a mental illness in honest and vivid detail.
“I take these people with me everywhere. They yell at me, scream at me, tell me what to do,” said Reedy, who has battled PTSD and a form of psychosis for several years. The reverend wasone of four expert panelists on the Gainesville Sun’s Illness to Wellness: A Community Forum on Mental Health.
Alongside Reedy was Terrie Mullin, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Judge Denise Ferrero, a judge presiding over an Alachua County mental health court and Dr. Dawn Bruijnzeel, a psychiatrist at the local veterans’ hospital and UF Health. The forum was was held on May 28.
For Alachua County residents, this was an opportunity to learn about a topic that has long been stigmatized in the U.S. Hearing a community leader share intimate and candid details about a personal daily struggle isn’t an occurrence that happens often.
At frank 2014, David Bornstein spoke about “solutions journalism” and how a positive feedback system can disrupt the “watchdog gloom and doom” mentality that ultimately leads to reducing the engagement and optimism needed to spur change. People need an understanding of the possibilities, meaning we can’t expect them to “roll up their sleeves” and go lobby Congress on issues that deserve attention, according to Bornstein. By establishing clear pathways, people can tangibly see the “how to” for drawing attention to those issues.
NAMI is an avenue that provides the “how to” manual for families or individuals who are supporting a loved one through the management of a mental illness.
“The more people involved and invested in that person’s wellness, the more likely that person is to get better.” Bruijnzeel said.
In 2013 alone, 171,744 individuals have been detained under the Chapter 394 statues of Florida law, known as the “Baker Act.” Involuntary commitment has recently become a hot topic in light of recent mass shootings across the United States.
“At some point does my right of Habeas Corpus end?” said Rev. Richard Reedy, “I have a right to be crazy…I have a right to go dance on the side of the street as long as I’m not creating a public nuisance,” Reedy said.
The idea of involuntary commitment is walking a fine line, according to Reedy.
“I don’t know where I stand on this because if it was not for my wife forcing me to go to the VA Hospital, I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” he said.
This panel is a prime example of real-world application of solutions journalism. Engaging the community through mental health courts, education and public events can make a lasting difference in the health of individuals – and the health of the community. Through education, we can help communities embrace the idea that mental health is not an individual battle; it’s part of the community’s.