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Everywhere across the globe today, people are celebrating World Mental Health Day. It’s a day for everyone to come together and talk about mental illness, mental health, and what we can do to acknowledge mental health conditions as diseases that can be treated. For people living with mental illness, today is about believing and knowing that they can recover.

At the Department of Mental Health, mental health is our business and we talk about it every day. We hear from the adults, youth and families receiving our services, we learn from them and we educate everyone that comes into our sphere about mental illnesses about recovery and giving everyone the opportunity to live their best life possible. That is what we do and I am humbled each day by the power of the many people I know living with mental illness who share their stories, who are not afraid to talk, who live their best life, and who believe that talking about mental illness will overcome the barriers that keep these treatable conditions in the margins of our health care system.

“For many, getting help starts with a conversation. People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider.”

With these words, President Obama this year launched a national conversation about mental health issues. Recently here in Massachusetts, DMH took up the President’s call encouraging Americans to break the silence and have an open and honest conversation about mental illness. With our many partners and stakeholders, DMH held a successful and much needed Community Conversation called “The Many Faces of Mental Illness: Sharing Our Stories” several weeks ago at the Kroc Center in Dorchester. The day-long dialogue drew individuals and families from Boston and beyond, clergy, first responders, educators, health and human services providers, policy-makers, and state and city employees. It was a great success and I hope will spark many Community Conversations about mental illness throughout the Commonwealth.

I know that we can make a difference in many lives by opening our minds and hearts to having candid discussion about difficult and complex issues. For many individuals living with mental illness, a simple conversation about mental illness can bring on a world of hope and healing.

One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Time to Change, an advocacy organization in England that spreads the word globally that it’s “Time to Talk.” They say: “You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health. Like our bodies, our minds can become unwell, so starting a conversation about mental health is important. It helps people to recover. It can strengthen a relationship between friends, family and colleagues. And it starts to take the taboo out of something that affects us all.”

I could not say it better. So, start a conversation, give your loved one, friend, neighbor or co-worker hope, and end the discrimination of living with mental illness.

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Department of Mental Health

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