Former U.S. Surgeon Generals Satcher and Benjamin Join Celebrity Therapist and Mental Health Advocates on Panel
Clinicians, health care providers and just plain folk took an entire day out of their holiday season to learn about mental health on December 8th. Hundreds filled breakout rooms at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis from 8:30 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon during the Fulton DeKalb Hospital Authority’s 3rd Health Summit.
The breakfast kickoff allowed an audience filled mostly with healthcare professionals to hear why the issue of mental health is so important for individuals and families. After greetings, the CEO of Mental Health America, Paul Gionfriddo, gave a personal testimony about how he felt current mental health procedures failed his son diagnosed with schizophrenia. The state commissioner of the Department of Behavioral health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), Frank Berry, described his agency’s approach toward supporting community based efforts to conquer the problem.
The working lunch was moderated by veteran broadcast journalist, Ms. Monica Pearson from WSB. Seven people presented information about mental health resources that are available in DeKalb and Fulton counties. Three concurrent afternoon session also offered CE credit and examined the topics of housing for mentally ill people, treatment for military veterans with PTSD and symptoms that might indicate mental illness in children or adolescents.
However, the session attended by the most people was the afternoon public forum. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement even before the doors of the Imperial Ballroom in the Marriott Marquis opened. Hundreds stood in line on December 8th so they could have a chance to interact with a panel of medical health experts moderated by Iyanla Vanzant. Vanzant hosts the number one reality program on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) called Iyanla, Fix My Life.
There was a panel of six people with five special front row guests so Vanzant started the program by reading short bios about most of the participants.
Then she opened discussion with a direct question. “When a family member sees that someone needs mental health help, what’s the first thing they should do?”
“Depends,” said Monica Saxby Parker, the Division Director for Mental Health for Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. “You need to look at what resources are available in the community before automatically thinking of traditional approaches.”
Former United States Surgeon Generals David Satcher and Regina Benjamin, both medical doctors, also had several chances to speak. Dr. Benjamin shared a personal testimony about a colleague who committed suicide, while Dr. Satcher gave relevant facts not often shared in a public setting.
Sherry Blake, PhD and Vanzant interacted in extended question and response set examining ties between mental illness and entertainers. Later, stage panelist Charles Willis spoke from experience, and with authority, about battling drug abuses and depression. He told the audience that many people self-medicate with illegal drugs to deal with mental illness.
An inspiring presentation came from business woman Indigo Triplett. In 2013 Ebony Magazine called her the $18 million dollar woman But during the public forum she described herself as bi-polar and told the audience she had indicators about her illness in childhood. But a recent bout of unorthodox behavior made her question her mental health and seek help. “I was bat*&@ crazy,” she said bluntly. She then explained how important it was for people to take instances of mental instability seriously.
For more information about the summit visit www.thefdha.org. The FDHA plans to air segments from the summit on a digital station in 2015.
The organization has also selected violence as the topic it will address during its 2015 summit. That day-long event will take place on Oct. 28, 2015 at the Atlanta Hyatt Regency Hotel.