“I wonder if he really knew what he was doing that day. Did he realize then just how much his death would haunt me? How I’d carry the weight of him with me every day, wondering why he did it, trying to decipher the few tear-stained words in the inadequate note he left, wondering if there’s any reason in the world good enough to leave your two young daughters without a dad? Did he realize I’d spend my life listening to his favorite songs, watching the one existing video of him to remember his voice, crying on Father’s Day or his birthday or any random day, because it suddenly hit me all over again that he was never coming back? Would it stop him?”
Regional Health Assessment, Linn, Benton, & Lincoln Counties, Oregon Download pdf from this link.
From my perspective the single most pressing challenge presented in the Regional Health Assessment is “awareness and understanding.” The good news is we are finally making favorable progress, but we have so much more to do to help create broader and focused awareness. My community has been slow at mental health awareness in the 11 years we have lived in Lincoln County, Oregon. As a mental health advocate, I hear the conversation on public health issues, especially mental health, improve significantly over the past 5 years.
A measure of how far we have to go is that folks, by and large, do not like to admit having mental health challenges in front of others in a conversational setting. With around 30 citizens, health care professionals, civic leaders, and educators attending this important conference, I was the only person in the room who indicated a personal and family history of mental health struggles. Of course, when there is an opening to talk about other physical or medical health issues, most people are very open and conversational in just about any setting. Until mental health is a completely open discussion in any setting, especially in a public heath professional forum, it will take much longer than my limited time on the planet to make optimum progress on the regional goals outlined in the Public Health Assessment. The goals include the following…
Assessment Goals and Objectives for Linn, Benton, and Lincoln County Regional Health Assessment (RHA):
- Identifies and gathers health status indicators in order to determine the current health status of the community
- Describes areas for potential future health improvement while building upon ongoing community knowledge and efforts
- Identifies common strengths and challenges facing the region in regard to health status
- Recognizes and highlights the need for more detailed local data
- Is a collaborative process that incorporates a broad range of community voices
With reference to the Guardian quote above, the worst case scenario is the life long emotional pain carried by loved ones who suffer as a consequence from secondary mental health challenges. The young lady was 5 years old when her father took his life. Her pain has lived with her for 25 years, and is at times worse with aging. This is not an uncommon result of a severe traumatic life event for a child. So, it is not just the loss of a loved one, it is the exponential emotional damage and mental health risk carried forward by loved ones and family members. If we are not honest and open about the generational implications of trauma in our lives and fail to see the global picture, progress in achieving the goals above will take more time, money and frustration.
My take away from the conference was a feeling of encouragement that we are moving in the right direction. In the list of goals above, it is in the “collaborative process that incorporates a broad range of community voices” that will lead us to success as a community. I believe strong leadership is needed to build new collaborative efforts and partnerships through out Lincoln County Oregon.
Talking about mental health matters to all of us!
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…