The statistics are hard to ignore. Between 2011 and 2014 Virginia dropped from 29th to 38th in states ranked by citizenry suffering from mental illness with regards to mental healthcare access.
Over half a million residents in the commonwealth receive no treatment whatsoever for their conditions. An estimated 56 thousand young people in Virginia suffer from serious depression, putting them at risk for suicide without access to assistance.
On January 26th from 6-8:30pm, in conjunction with the Under the Gun exhibit at Work Release in the NEON District, community leaders will hold a forum discussion about mental health issues, leading into a conversation on how Norfolk — be it the city, private sector, and/or faith community — might better to meet the mental health needs of the community and reduce the overall stigma surrounding mental health care.
The conversation will be moderated by former head of the Norfolk Planning commision, Suzanne Puryear, with an eye towards the goal of exploring methods of lessening the stigma around mental health issues, improving access to mental health care — whether through increasing city services or seeking contributions from the private sector, and/or the church community stepping up outreach, much as it has in regards to helping to aid the homeless population.
The panel will include:
– Dr. Cynthia Romero, Director of the M. Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health, EVMS
– Reverend David Duprey, Armed Services Chaplain
– Mr. Kurt Hofelich, President, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital
The adjoining Under the Gun exhibit features art centered around the human cost of gun violence, eschewing policy discussions to instead pose questions with the goal of encouraging a seeking of solutions that reduce all forms of violence in the city of Norfolk.
Over forty percent of statewide police shootings since 2010 involved a victim of mental illness. Norfolk comprises a third of that figure. Six in ten of all gun-related deaths are suicides, and family members of suicide victims are 65% more likely to make an attempt themselves.
The curators of the exhibit firmly believe that these numbers can be reduced if access to public healthcare is increased, both by improving outcomes of the at risk for suicide as a result of depression or other illnesses, and by reducing the number of criminal acts induced through problematic mental health conditions.
This forum is free and open to all ages, though parental guidance is recommended for 18 and under. The public is invited to attend and share experiences, offer compassion to those in pain, and be part of a hopeful conversation about healing.
Free parking is available two blocks away at the Community Services Board, 225 W Olney Rd.