Reflections on the Conversations Summit

An open and honest dialogue with youth about mental health, stigma. How often do you see that? How often have you experienced it?  This is precisely what the Conversation Summit set out to achieve. And they did.

Hope for the Day organized the Conversations Summit 2019 to “equip youth with knowledge on how to take action and drive the conversation on the intersections of mental health in social, academic, and work environments.” It was a day where youth led other youth, as youth helped design the day and led many of the education sessions. Experts were on hand to present, share their stories, and assist anyone that may become emotionally triggered by a topic.

The day was structured around pillars, or goals for the day, that included: 

  • Heighten Our Awareness through Mental Health Education and Self-expression.

  • Empower Our Personal and Professional Development:

  • Amplify Our Stories:

  • Raise Our Voice through Community Action and Leadership:

  • Distribute resources and community best practices in mental health.

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I’ve worked with members of Hope for the Day for a year and a half as part of our suicide prevention coalition - the Youth in Crisis Coalition. What really sets Hope for the Day apart, in my experience, is how they approach youth. They focus on ‘peervention’ - working with kids and giving them the tools and education to help their peers. This event exemplified that part of their mission.

If we hope to make any impact on preventing suicide, especially among youth, then we need to change our approach.  The methods Hope for the Day is leading us in the right direction. Youth want to hear from their peers, not their elders.  They want and appreciate honesty and are far more open to receiving and sharing each others stories.

DuPage County is affected by mental health and suicide. It is not something we can turn away from or avoid talking about. We must have these open conversations with each other, with our families, and with our children.  We must breakthrough the barrier of stigma and ensure people can freely identify their needs and receive help.

Learn more about Hope for the Day at https://www.hftd.org/.

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I walked into the UIC Forum with the principal of Westmont Junior High and Emmy, the service dog he is training that comes with him to school.  That morning, his students presented on “Serving Your Way To Resiliency” - how volunteering and service can improve your own mental health while you are helping others.  Other student groups presented on health dating, and dealing with stress and anxiety. These were students talking to other students about the difficulties they all face.

During my lunch break, I got to sit in on the Boys Don’t Cry panel - where 5 men discuss the stigma that prevent men from seeking help and talking about their mental health.  The speakers were open, honest, and insightful. And that was the feedback I heard on the entire day. It was designed to be a series of dialogues, conversations and interactive presentations. It undoubtedly impacted the lives of each attendee. I believe there were connections made all around me - kids that will be able to reach out to others that understand them and what they are going through.

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Mary Jo Mullen