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Holly’s Hope works to remove stigma of mental illness

Venice Gondolier Sun - 11/4/2017

Suicide and mental health are topics with a long history of stigma and misinformation. Now, with national suicide rates increasing, Holly’s Hope intends to eliminate the taboos of mental illness and save lives.

Holly’s Hope, originally called the Morgan Fisher Action Committee, first came together in the months following the suicide of teacher Holly Morgan Fisher in February.

“Holly was not the type of person you would ever expect that from. It proved how none of us are really aware of mental illness and something needed to be done,” said Vanessa Carusone, city of North Port vice mayor and part of Holly’s Hope leadership.

Named in Fisher’s memory, the group was founded on the mission to end the social stigmas of depression, suicide and mental health.

“People will say, ‘I’m OK, I can take care of myself and I don’t need help,’” said Joan Morgan, Fisher’s mother. “The fact is, you cannot make them get help unless they agree to it, and that is a sad thing that basically cost us our daughter’s life.”

Holly’s Hope had its first meeting in April but, according to Carusone, there was some confusion on the group’s goals.

“Initially, we had a lot of individuals that were touched somehow by suicide and they wanted a support group versus wanting to create change,” Carusone said. “I think now we are getting to the point where everyone is on the same page that we’re all here to make that social change and we are going to do it this way and this is how we are going to get to it.”

As the group refined its mission, meetings evolved into a mixture of community members and mental health professionals and that is where Holly’s Hope developed its three areas of focus: policy, education and outreach.

Based on their expertise or interest, members of Holly’s Hope create plans within subgroups based on the three areas of focus. The subgroups then share their plans with the full membership.

The result is an organized and detailed plan of action for each area of focus.

For Carusone, having a mixture of community members and established professionals is key to the group’s success.

“If you can, get other types of groups actively evolved. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Try to get those mental health providers who can tell you what we have already and how to spread the word,” Carusone said.

Although Holly’s Hope is focused on North Port, the group ultimately hopes it changes can serve as a model for other communities to approach mental health.

A subsidiary of Holly’s Hope was also created to serve those who need to talk about their own battles with depression or how suicide has affected them.

“We’re going to have people come and talk about their issues, their needs. They need to talk about their emotional responses to things that have happened and what they should do,” Morgan said.

In order to best serve people with depression or thoughts of suicide, members of Holly’s Hope are taking classes such as safeTALK, which teach members how to address and help those with suicidal thoughts.

“The reason for us to be in this group is simple; we cannot have any other family go through what we have,” Morgan said. “This is about being a community of caring because we need to care and we need to be there for each other.”

For more information about Holly’s Hope or to be alerted about future meetings, those interested can visit the group’s Facebook at?facebook.com/HollysHopeNP

or send email to Vanessa Carusone at:?vcarusone@cityofnorthport.com.

 
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