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National Council Conference and Success, Hopes and Dreams

Several of our Nebraska colleagues joined together in Washington D.C. in May to attend the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference, and to participate in Hill Day. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to network, share ideas, and learn about national trends in the behavioral health field. The conference included presentations by Linda Rosenberg, Tom Insel, Mariel Hemingway, Bruce Perry, Hillary Clinton, Don Berwick, Patrick Kennedy, and many more! I for one left the conference feeling enlightened, and inspired to bring the energy of the week back to our office to make a difference in our work as we move forward.

One theme that rang out in many of the presentations I attended aligned strongly with the awareness work we are focused on here at the foundation. How can we fight the stigma that is still too often associated with mental illness and shift people’s mindsets to view mental illness as a brain disorder, a medical condition, or something that should be treated just as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease is. One chart that Tom Insel discussed at length was the strides that have been made in cures and treatments of these other diseases, but that staggering numbers still exist in suicide rates and not much progress has been made. We at the foundation are committed to continuing our awareness efforts and supporting suicide prevention efforts locally because this is a problem that cannot and should not continue at the rates that are happening.

The conference also included the kick-off of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week with Chiara de Blasio serving as the 2014 Honorary Chairperson. She was joined by five youth who told their stories of overcoming trauma and hardships to get to where they were today. The stories these kids told were incredible, and their desire to help pave the way for change for others was incredibly inspirational!

Our trip concluded with a day on the Hill meeting with Nebraska representatives. While some meetings were more encouraging than others, the common theme of lack of funding rang through. There were more Nebraskans there for Hill day this year than there ever has been, and I would encourage others to remain active in communicating with our representatives to show how important behavioral health concerns are to their constituents.