Saturday, June 15, 2013

Be The Change - Part II

"All you have to do to effect change is get 535 people to do the same thing at the same time."

So said the lobbying expert who offered us tips and inspiration for speaking to our congresspeople.  We would be on the Hill the next day to get 535 legislators to do the same thing: to listen and read our stories and to support the many legislative proposals now before or en route to Congress which affect mental health.

On Wednesday afternoon we gathered to introduce ourselves (quickly), learn about lobbying, and learn about legislation.

Ourselves: The most recent loss was three months ago.  The most distant: Over twenty years.  Lost to suicide: sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, uncles, aunts.  All kinds of people there, all kinds of ages and occupations and sorrows and hopes.  (One other pastor, an Episcopalian priest.)  I was in awe of the mother who lost her son three months ago.  I remember the three months marker, because that was when I went back to seminary.  I remember the fog, the searing pain, and my bewilderment at the utter ludicrousness of what I was trying to do.  I remember my daughter saying, "Mom, you have got to get out of bed."  I remember the couple of friends who became my armor, accompanying me everywhere, trying to make sure that I wouldn't fall down and die.  How did that woman get on a plane and fly to Washington?  How did I get in a car and drive to Pittsburgh?
There are a lot of really strong and brave people out there who could have been dining with their families and watching television on Wednesday night, but chose otherwise. Some of them are truly heroic.

The legislation: Full funding for the National Violent Death Reporting System, currently only accessible to 18 states.  The System would further comprehensive and accurate reporting of violent deaths, data essential to research and policy development. 
(It was to prove extremely fun the next day to calmly tell a member of the House Appropriations Committee that I wanted him to vote for $25 million dollars for this System.)
The Mental Health First Aid Act, which would funnel funds to states for mental health training for first responders.  As was pointed out to us, some decades ago, people thought it would be impossible or difficult to help those suffering from heart attacks -- and now CPR training is common across the country.  Wouldn't it be something if basic mental health first aid was as accessible?
And other legislation related to mental health and safety issues for schools, Indian reservations, and young people, and legislation designed to promote the development of medications.
After dinner we gathered in our state groups to figure out and practice how we were going to present ourselves and our issues.  We were well prepared and, I gotta tell you, Ohio was the last to leave the conference room!


The quote comes from a Native American artist whose work we were to see at the American Indian Museum on Friday.  It seems appropriate to the entire enterprise in which we were engaged.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for being part of the change...and for this gorgeous quote. I'm going to borrow it for future use.