On Tuesday May 16th at the Alachua County Library Headquarters, concerned parent, Virginia Lynn coordinated a panel of community mental health experts and resources to discuss teen depression, suicide, and bullying.
Lynn is an Eastside High School parent whose daughter was recently diagnosed with depression and felt the need for a discussion in the community about mental health. She contacted mental health professionals in the community and put together a panel of local mental health experts to talk about options, services, and answer questions from parents and students.
The panel consisted of representatives from the Alachua County School Board, an Eastside High School Assistant Principal, Alachua County Crisis Center, UF Psychiatry, UF Medical Psychology, Meridian, NAMI Gainesville, Be SMART for Kids, Partnership for Strong Families, CDS Family and Behavioral Health Services, and the Alachua County Sherriff’s Office.
UF Department of Psychiatry Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Michael Shapiro, MD sat on the panel and took questions from the audience. The psychiatry department’s Medical Psychology Division Chief, Joseph McNamara, PhD and Associate Professor Carol Lewis, PhD, MPH. were also in attendance to assist community members with questions and concerns.
In addition to her roles with the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Lewis also provides advocacy work with Peace4Gainesville, a local trauma-responsive resilience-building community initiative. They also took questions from community members and provided resources for building resilience and developing emotional health. Dr, Lewis said she “thought this was a wonderful heart-felt reaction in response to a difficult situation. Community members, including high school students, were able to ask mental health professionals and school staff about their concerns related to bullying and how to respond to a friend experiencing depression. It was an honor to participate and to hear the concerns of community members. Several brave teenagers even shared their experiences with the whole large group.”
The event was so well received that Lynn has been asked to coordinate another event for the community.
Reducing trauma and bullying, and building resilience go hand in hand. This has been referred to as Beating the Odds, While Changing the Odds – resilience plus social justice. It is crucial that we listen to the concerns of our fellow community members about the problems they are experiencing in Alachua County. It will take all of us, having honest conversation, with a solution focus, in order to make our community and community members the most resilient we can be.
– Carol Lewis, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor, UF Department of Psychiatry