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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, October 06, 2019 1:00 am

'Silence the stigma'

Day-long conference aimed at sharing ways to discuss difficult mental-health topics

Marcia Haaff

If you go

What: The Look Up Faith Conference on Mental Health

When: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday

Where: Grand Wayne Center

Cost: Tickets can be purchased on site for $50. For conference details, visit LookUpConference.org.

“Hi. How are you?”

“I'm fine. How are you?”

“I'm good.”

Every day, we greet people with polite hellos. It's part of our culture to exchange pleasantries, but we don't really expect someone's answer to include an honest evaluation of their mental health. What would you do if the conversation went like this?

“How are you today?”

“Not so great. I'm really overwhelmed and not sure how I'm going to get through another day.”

Wow. Awkward!

Do we avoid saying something so vulnerable because we think the other person doesn't care? I don't think so. When we avoid a real discussion about how we are doing, it's because we've been conditioned not to talk about our mental health. The stigma is real. We've all experienced it.

The Lutheran Foundation wants to change that. It's time to start the conversation and silence the stigma associated with mental illness.

In 2013, our board of directors sought to narrow the Foundation's focus to become a more impactful investor in our community. A study revealed that mental and behavioral health and wellness was a significantly underfunded area in our community. Since that time, mental wellness has become the focus of The Lutheran Foundation's grant awards.

This is why we are so excited to be hosting a major conference in Fort Wayne Monday – the Look Up Faith Conference on Mental Health. Kay Warren, cofounder of Saddleback Church in California, is among the mental health experts from around the nation who are coming to the Grand Wayne Center to share their expertise on topics such as depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction and PTSD, all with a faith component.

Every one of us has so much to learn about mental health and wellness. Gathering together to learn and discuss difficult topics is like opening a window that will begin to blow away the stigma that keeps us from talking about our mental health.

If you're a pastor, a youth worker, a counselor, a student – or even a concerned parent or grandparent who just wants to learn more and find resources – we hope to see you there!

Marcia Haaff is CEO of The Lutheran Foundation.