Our Talk with the Governor
Several members and I had a chance to meet with Governor Dennis Duagaard while he was in Brookings in July for “Capital for a Day.” This a program setup by the Governor to get him out into the community during the year by declaring different communities around the state as Capital for a Day. He then spends the day touring the community and discussing with the community their issues and needs.
Larry Tiedeman, the Senator from Brookings County, who is supportive of BEP and aware of what we are trying to do, arranged for us to meet with Governor Duagaard during his time at the Children’s Museum on Tuesday, July 16th. Doug O’ Neill presented him with a copy of the book No One Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers. Doug feels this book reflects what our culture feels about mental illness and presents the challenges accurately of caregivers and their loved ones. He described this feeling to the Governor.
I had a chance to talk with the Governor about caregivers in general and about the need for a state lead education effort to help local advocacy groups like BEP to breakdown the stigma of mental Illness and create meaningful conversations on solutions in the local community. We gave the Governor a book mark with BEP contact information and the following conversation script:
Brookings Empowerment Project
Educate, Advocate, Act
Our Mission: “Empower with Resources and Support, Caregivers and Individuals with Persistent Mental Illness”
Caregivers are our first line of defense in our mental health system. If we lose them through lack of support and/ or resourcing we will be in worse shape than we are now, and we are in tough shape now.
BEP has 3 Focuses:
1) Break the Stigma of Mental Illness through Education and Awareness in our community
The need to eliminate stigma is nothing new. Fifteen years ago, a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health—the first and only one to date—identified stigma as a public health concern that leads peoples to “avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing” individuals with mental illness. Thanks to stigma, people living with mental health conditions are:
- Alienated and seen as “others.”
- Perceived as dangerous.
- Seen as irresponsible or unable to make their own decisions.
- Less likely to be hired.
- Less likely to get safe housing.
- More likely to be criminalized than offered health care services.
- Afraid of rejection to the point that they don’t always pursue opportunities.
What we do – BEP has an annual Mental Health Forum, but we need more education and awareness in the city, county, and state.
What we want – State Led Education and Awareness Effort on Mental Illness Stigma
Our next step is to meet with our Mayor and our Senator and talk about next steps. Copies of the book mentioned earlier and bookmarks were given to them as well. This book will soon be in our collection of Mental Health books sponsored by BEP at the Brookings Public Library.