Changing the Conversation Around Mental Health


Campaign Spreads Awareness, Combats Stigma on Mental Illness

Mental illnesses are brain disorders that are biologically based medical problems. Untreated, they can cause severe disturbances in thinking, feeling and relating. This results in substantially diminished capacity for dealing with the ordinary demands of life. Mental illness can affect people of any age and occur in any family. They are not caused by bad parenting and not evidence of weakness of character.



The Campaign to Change Directions

The goal of the Campaign to Change Direction is to change the culture of mental health in America so that all of those in need receive the care and support they deserve. The Campaign encourages all Americans to pay attention to their emotional well-being – and it reminds us that our emotional well-being is just as important as our physical well-being.

“This campaign began with the acknowledgment of some very basic truths. We all have mental health and we are all affected by the mental well-being of those we love. Although these statements seem selfevident, we see little recognition in today’s culture of the importance of caring for our mental well-being or the well-being of those close to us,” Founder and President Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., said.

Dr. Van Dahlen continues, “how do we begin to change a cultural blind spot that is grounded in misinformation and fear? We create a common language that conveys a shared experience—an experience that reflects a continuum we can all understand because on it we see ourselves.”

America is at a crossroads when it comes to how our society addresses mental health. We know that one in five of our citizens has a diagnosable mental health condition, and that more Americans are expected to die this year by suicide than in car accidents. While many of us are comfortable acknowledging publicly our physical suffering, for which we almost always seek help, many more of us privately experience mental suffering, for which we almost never reach out.


The Change Direction initiative is a collection of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders, and leaders from the private sector who have come together to change the culture in America about mental health, mental illness, and wellness. This initiative was inspired by the discussion at the White House National Conference on Mental Health in 2013, which came on the heels of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy.

By bringing together this unprecedented and diverse group of leaders we plan to spark a movement that:
–  frees us to see our mental health as having equal value to our physical health
–   creates a common language that allows us to recognize the signs of emotional suffering in ourselves and others
–   encourages us to care for our mental well-being and the mental well-being of others

The Pledges

The simplest pledge is one that anyone can do. Learn the Five Signs of emotional suffering so you can recognize them in yourself or help a loved one who may be in emotional pain. In short, the Five Signs are personality change, agitation, withdrawal, decline in personal care, and hopelessness. Someone may exhibit one or more signs.

Moreover, a long and growing list of nonprofit organizations and private sector companies are making additional pledges to deliver educational tools and programs that will help change the national conversation about mental health. This collective impact effort will reach over 30 million Americans over the next five years with specific efforts focused to educate:
–  military personnel, veterans, and family members
–  corporate employees
–  federal, state, and local government employees
–  first responders
–  students, teachers, school officials, and coaches
–  members of the faith-based community
–  health care professionals

In order to change our culture, we have to start with a common language, and learn the five signs.

Do you know the five signs of emotional sufferings?

Here are Five Signs that may mean someone is in emotional pain and might need help:


Did you know nearly one in every five people, 42.5 million Americans, have a diagnosable mental health condition. Our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members may be suffering emotionally. They may not recognize the symptoms or ask for help.


Bringing Mental Health to Main Street

Change Direction Summit County pledges to share the five signs of emotional suffering, along with information on how to get involved with changing the direction of mental health to over 50,000 citizens.

In his 2016 State of the County Address, then County Executive Russ Pry, expressed the County had a responsibility to assist those in need stating, “when we see that someone is suffering emotionally, it is up to us to show compassion, to reach out, connect, and offer to help.”

Through the Executive’s call to action, over 50 organizations created a community-wide three-day event in July of last year named, “Bringing Mental Health to Main Street” to  promote awareness of the five signs of emotional suffering, educate citizens on mental health, renew a regional effort to combat the effects of mental illness, and connect those affected to the help they need.



If You Recognize That Someone In Your Life Is Suffering, Now What?

You connect, you reach out, you inspire hope, and you offer help. Show compassion and caring and a willingness to find a solution when the person may not have the will or drive to help him- or herself. There are many resources in our communities. It may take more than one offer, and you may need to reach out to others who share your concern about the person who is suffering.  If everyone is more open and honest about mental health, we can prevent pain and suffering, and those in need will get the help they deserve.

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