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Talking Mental Health with Legislators

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Shulanda J. Hastings

Ambassador Shulanda

Ambassador Shulanda

Shulanda J. Hastings is an inspirational writer, Christian counselor and an ambassador to the faith-based community; helping them break mental health barriers. She is the author of the Beauty of My Thorns novel series and of the memoirs, Keeping My Faith While Saving My Mind.

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People are talking…

Presidential candidates are talking…

About many things.  Most of the talk has been basic rhetoric and things considered entertaining.

I enjoy and appreciate ‘good’ entertainment as the next person. No one can argue the fact that this election season has been entertaining, but when it comes to rating its quality…well, that is a big debate!

Even though serious issues can be discussed delicately without taking away their significance, they first have to be categorized as relevant to those talking about them.

As a mental health advocate and ambassador, I want everyone talking about mental health and its effects when challenging. Because it affects everyone in some way, there is a responsibility to engage in healthy and productive conversations that help foster understanding and even acceptance of what one doesn’t understand without being judgmental.

Talking more about mental health challenges creates a pathway to help break barriers. Our communities need to be talking. And yes, our presidential candidates need to be talking. But we also need our elected officials talking about it.

This is why this year I have been enhancing my advocacy to that of public policy. As a Field Advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention I have had the opportunity to participate in two State Capitol Days; Tennessee and Mississippi.

As a Tennessee resident, I care about what happens in my community. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with community and faith-based organizations and leaders who are doing remarkable things to not only change the conversations about mental health, but also make incredible progress in helping families, educating communities and enacting policies by working with local and state legislators.

Mississippi is my home state. My heart will forever be in Mississippi. I want the same progress to be made in the mental health field as other states like Tennessee not only in Mississippi, but all of the United States.

Yesterday, I spent time at the Capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi to inform our legislators one on one how mental health challenges are affecting Mississippians. Our Mississippi AFSP chapter did a great job in sharing personal stories, statistics and strategies in place to help communities in Mississippi.  Here is an article published by local media about our event.

I was being a voice for Mississippi because it is my home state, but also because I lead a new chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and we serve residents in DeSoto County, Mississippi.

DBSA Spirit Realm DeSoto County is a mental health advocacy organization that provides community outreach, educational materials and programs, resources and support groups. We are also faith-based and intentionally work to change the conversations not only in the communities we serve,  but within the church, the faith-based community.

To learn more about our organization, please visit www.dbsaspiritrealm.org

Now, I am excited to know that our State Capitol Day last month in Nashville, Tennessee is continuing to make progress.  One of our proposed bills has passed, an expansion to the Jason Flatt Act, has been signed by both the House and Senate Speakers and now awaiting action from Governor Bill Haslam. To track the status of this bill, click here.

These results let you know that advocacy matters.  Talking matters.  You have a voice and it matters. Keep talking about mental health in your communities and with your elected officials. You have the power to enact change. Break the silence barrier!

 


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