Local libraries to host mental health conversations in February

Between 1996 and 2016, the suicide rate in Vermont increased by more than 48 percent – the second highest increase nationally according to the Centers for Disease Control.

This rising rate of suicide, paired with the social stigma attached to mental health problems, indicates a need for safe spaces for communities to learn and talk about issues of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Recognizing these issues within their own towns, the Charlotte and Carpenter-Carse (Hinesburg) Libraries have teamed up to host “Mental Health Conversations: Risk and Resiliency during the month of February.”

The public libraries will host two evenings of panel presentations with mental health professionals, and a separate event that features Pulitzer Prize-winning and Emmy Award-winning writer and critic Ron Powers at the Carpenter-Carse Library.

The panel discussions will take place on Feb. 5 at the Charlotte Library, and Feb. 20 at the Carpenter-Carse Library. Both panel presentations start at 7 p.m.

The panelists are: Charlotte McCorkel, project director of integration at the Howard Center; Joanne Wolfe, a licensed psychologist; and Eliza Pillard, family wellness coach at the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families at UVM Medical Center.

Themes will include anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. Discussion topics will be what signs and symptoms to look for and how to start a conversation with a loved one. There will be time for questions and the libraries will provide online resources and a curated collection of print and video materials for browsing and borrowing.

The Carpenter-Carse Library welcomes Ron Powers on Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. Powers is a New York Times bestselling author living in Vermont and the author of 16 books. His most recent, “No One Cares About Crazy PeopleThe Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America,” offers an account of the social history of mental illness in America, as well as his personal story of his two sons’ battles with schizophrenia. Powers will speak of his family’s experience with mental illness as well as his research on mental health and the health care system.

These discussions and presentations are made possible by the “All of Us” grants through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. The Carpenter-Carse and Charlotte libraries will also receive iPads through one of the grants. The iPads will be loaded with reputable medical resources, and then circulated at the libraries so patrons can browse a wealth of mental health information privately and securely.

This project is funded in part by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Mass. The mental health conversations are part of Charlotte and Carpenter-Carse Libraries’ initiative, “Healthy Communities: Head to Toe.”

In April, the libraries will focus on the topic of tick-borne illnesses.

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