By Jason Schwartz
DELRAY BEACH – An intimate gathering of individuals including area mental health clinicians, school counselors and law enforcement officials joined members of the community on Saturday to start the conversation on behavioral and mental health.
Starting promptly at 10 a.m. at Atlantic Community High School, the session, “Let’s Talk Delray Beach,” opened with a clip from the Oscar Award-winning film, “Silver Linings Playbook,” a romantic comedy. At the dinner table the two main characters, who suffer with mental health illness, openly discuss numerous medications they’ve taken and how it affected them. The dinner hosts, family members, become very uncomfortable with the discourse.
Moderator Toni Marshall of CRA Media Group decided to start off “Let’s Talk Delray Beach” with this clip as an icebreaker and also to start the conversation.
“How many of us have access to these medications, know how or where to get them or even know what they are?” she asked.
The immediate panel included Delray Beach Police Captain Michael Coleman and Clinical Behaviorist Clay Robinson. Marshall gave an anecdotal account of how self-medicating is more than likely the prescription in economically depressed communities.
C. Ron Allen, president of CRA Media Group, presented an overview, which included statistics, myths and fears and recent mental-health-related violent incidents.
He also presented information on a range of possible actions to establish or improve prevention of mental illnesses, promotion of mental health, public education and awareness, early identification, treatment, crisis response, and recovery supports available in their communities.
“These community conversations will certainly encourage innovation and creativity to meet the concerns of our city and ensure that all perspectives are heard and respected,” Allen said. “After all, we all have a stake in the outcomes.”
The most impressive part of this forum was how everyone just talked freely. A representative from the South County Mental Health chimed in as well as representative from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Shari Kaplan, a Boca Raton psychologist who founded Can’t Tell Foundation -a nonprofit organization, which aims to help bullying victims cope and eventually overcome – their pain – added some insight as to how children and young adults are mislabeled.
Everyday citizens asked questions about how to handle loved ones with behavior issues. Members of the school community inquired about ways to work with children with behavior issues and even asked about bullying.
Community members learned about the role of law enforcement, when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill. The session lasted the full two hours, with participants taking part in an informal verbal survey.
“Mental health issues in our communities—particularly for our youth—are complex and challenging; but, by coming together and increasing our understanding and raising awareness, we can make a difference,” Coleman said.