Saturday, June 15, 2013

Be The Change - Part III

Some moments from our day on Capitol Hill:

Russell Senate Building
All six of us Ohioans met with legislative aides to our two United States senators, and then we broke into pairs and met with five or six aides to our representatives.  In one case, the Representative himself joined his aide for a meeting with us.
 This one was fun!
Some of the aides are outstanding.  Health care clinicians in the case of both Senators, and one other knowledgeable, interested, and articulate aide - background unknown - to a representative.  All the aides were attentive and open to hearing from us, although one young man was clearly unsettled by the word "suicide."  I figure that it was a public service on our part to force him to listen to it, over and over again.
We told our personal stories, those also over and over again, and pushed our legislative agenda, over and over again.  Most of us had prepared one page vignettes (mine is a few blog posts back) to leave with the legislators.  It's a difficult moment, to push that picture and bio across a table and think, "It should be a wedding picture, or a photo with a new baby, or a picture taken ten years from now and marking a professional achievement -- all things which will never happen."
With United States Representative David Joyce of Ohio
I was paired with a dynamite young woman named Emily, about to graduate from college and begin graduate school in the same master's program in social work which my daughter completed a year ago, plus a certificate program in nonprofit management.  Emily's life trajectory was changed when her uncle died two years ago.  She makes a compelling case for the Mental Health First Aid Act when she describes his last hour on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, his only companion a young police officer who had no crisis training and did not even think to call for back-up.
As we talked to our legislators and to each other over the course of the nine-hour day, Emily and I found ourselves repeatedly expressing our astonishment at finding ourselves where we were.  From lives devoid of knowledge about or interest in suicide, to months of immobilizing shock and pain, to new priorities, to the halls of Congress.  Who could have imagined?  But there it is, as the quote that probably isn't Gandhi's at all says,
Be the change you want to see in the world.


  1. Robin, what an amazing week for you and your whole group of courageous people. It must have been emotionally draining and yet empowering at the same time. Bless you and the others for challenging the system to respond. Thanks for sharing this experience with us.

  2. What is the Mental Health First Aid Act? Here in the UK we have section 136 of the mental Health Act, which gives the police the power to detain people who seem to be suffering from mental health problems in a public place epsecially if they seem to be a danger to themselves or others. They then have to be assessed by a team of mental health professionals to see if they shpuld be admitted to hospital, or another referrl made. Do you have the same thing in the US?

    1. The MHFAA is described in the previous post. I don't know what our version of section 136 is, but the MHFAA is completely different in its orientation.

  3. Did you get to meet Sherrod Brown? I adore him...

    1. No, but his Health LA is an amazing woman, a clinical psychologist who totally gets it.

  4. I read your facebook post directing me to your blog and obeyed dutifully. I have been gone--emotionally during Joey's anniversary, and then geographically, as we did our ritual post-anniversary trip, (one thing that seems to help get through those days of grief). While I was doing that, you were doing this. Can I just tell you how proud I am of you? I know the internal noise/pain/trauma/ambivalence of this journey, and love that you care so much for others that you would be willing to subject yourself to all that, yet again. Now it's over. You can rest. Well done, Mama.