Continued from Parts One and Two and excerpted from a magazine article I wrote in 2001. It's too late for my son, but they were good ideas then. And they are good ideas now.
Since March 2000 the symposium steering committee has continued to meet monthly. Some of the ideas currently under discussion include the following:
- A Human Services Summit for high schools, community colleges, CSUH, and county and state departments of mental health to explore ways to attract, educate and retain a more qualified and diverse human services workforce.
- The introduction of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) into the university curriculum.
- Seeking grants to create a university model of supported education.
- A CSUH faculty in-service training for working with students with mental disorders.
- A CSUH focus group/club for self-identified students with mental disorders.
- An on-campus drop-in center, peer-counseling training, literature in student health centers, information for students at orientation, coping classes, and parent orientation brochures.
- Workshops for junior and senior high school students about mental illness and wellness.
- Inclusion of some mental health training in teacher certification.
- Online courses with learning modalities specific to certain brain disorders.
- Online courses for prison and juvenile offender populations.
- Celebrity speakers on campus.
Some days I'm confident that support for these ideas will come. Other days, I wonder if I'm leading a charge that will result in a huge public falling on my face. It's a risk I have to take. The opportunity is too great. If I fail, it will still all have been worthwhile. The good that has already occurred because of the symposium cannot be erased. I've received dozens of notes of appreciation from symposium planners, participants, and attendees.
Meanwhile, some see the mental health system itself as not well if you use the definition of illness as fragmentation. Departments are siloed with little coordination between them. Communication between agencies needs improvement. Human service personnel are in a supply and demand crisis, and public awareness and education cries out for substantial increase.
Concerned mental health proponents -- and there are many within the pubic and private mental health community -- are beginning to talk about the need for more unification of efforts, more wellness or integration. As it attempts to integrate itself, it's time for the mental health community to bring state educational systems into its fold.
On the home front, Merlin the Magician sits on my desk. Our family has begun to integrate mental illness into our familial system in a hard-fought battle to find wellness. My son, still seeking integration of illness and wellness, has fled to a foreign country.
Will I ever see him again? I don't know. I have to trust that Merlin's magic will keep him safe and, when he's ready, bring him home once more.