Organizers Seeking Lively Discussion of Mental Health Issues at KC Event

Mental illness is no laughing matter, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy talking about it.

That’s especially true when you are going to be talking about the subject all day, which is the plan for a conference on tap for Saturday in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Click here for more details about the time, place and schedule.

Announced just a few months ago, Jennifer Wilding has spearheaded coordination of the free event as director of Consensus, a local organization that specializes in facilitating group discussions.

Poetry readings will be interspersed between group discussions among tablemates, Wilding said.

And, thanks to the wizardry of electronic keypads and computer tablets, participants will be able to see the real-time results of their conversations.

Some staff will operate as a “theme team,” Wilding said, which will crunch the electronic tabulations and report out during table conversations.

Demographic information keyed in by attendees will also reveal how responses break down, for instance, by age and the part of town in which they reside.

“We will have a pretty good sense, by the end of the day, of who went for what,” Wilding said.

Hosted by both Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., Creating Community Solutions-KC is one of just a handful of lead sites selected to host conversations like this as part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health.

President Barack Obama launched the initiative in January, a month after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The schedule for Saturday calls for four table discussions throughout the day. The topics are:

  • The importance of mental health in the community
  • Barriers and challenges
  • Mental health and young people (ages 14 to 24)
  • Action

The national website includes summaries of conversations that have already taken place in Albuquerque, N.M., and Sacramento, Calif.

Two common findings from those previous meetings stuck out to Wilding: the stigma of mental health remains a barrier to care and that young people equate mental illness with bullying – whether it’s the cause or the effect of the action.

Organizers have limited attendance at the Kansas City event to 300 participants.

Wilding said they can accommodate walk-up registrants, but they prefer pre-registration at this website.

The plan is to have 180 from the general public with the remainder coming from the mental health community, be they parents or consumers.

Practitioners will also be on hand, but psychiatrists and other paid professionals will comprise a small portion of the attendees.

Wilding said organizers don’t want to overwhelm participants with a bunch of Ph.D.’s. The plan is to brief the provider community on the results at a follow-up meeting next month.

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