BY CASSIE CUTCHEN
The Center of Peace Victoria held its second Conversations Over Coffee event at Mumphord’s Place BBQ on Friday, May 17. A few dozen people gathered over dinner, to discuss mental health and the stigmas that surround it. Founder and Executive Director, Danna Cole, began the initiative with the hopes of, “bringing people together for meaningful conversations.”
Table hosts, trained through the Center of Peace Victoria, led participants through three rounds of conversations about different topics related to mental health and mental illness. At the end of each round, participants changed tables so that they could meet new people and come up with new ideas and resolutions to help the community resolve various issues pertaining to mental health in education, law enforcement, the workplace and more.
Newly elected Mayor, Rawley McCoy, participated in the event and discussed the issues he felt were most important. He said, “The biggest thing that I see as a problem with mental health is the denial that it’s a disease.” To McCoy, the idea of treating someone in a mental health crisis as a criminal is akin to treating a diabetic like himself as a criminal, in the event of a diabetic episode.
Victoria College professor, Debra Chronister, also questioned her group about what we could do as a community to encourage law enforcement to have more thorough training in responding to mental health crises. McCoy chimed in and agreed that sometimes it would be difficult to discern a mental health case from a case of willful misbehavior.
Many of the solutions and ideas developed at the event could have a real impact on the community and the way Victoria and its citizens relate to those suffering mental health issues. Though some people have chronic mental illnesses that are impossible to detect from the outside, some people exhibit symptoms of their mental health disease and face judgment and ridicule.
Beth Hudson reflected on the event when she explained that, “Victoria is trying to gather together and listen, understand, share commonalities, and perhaps shed a little light on why people are often a little bit different, and see things a little differently.” Hudson was one of many participants that felt what Center of Peace Victoria is doing in the community, is both necessary and welcome.
Danna Cole has plans for future events and ultimately hopes to have public deliberations for what she calls “wicked problems,” which are problems that do not have easy solutions.
The Center for Peace Victoria’s next Conversation Over Coffee event will be in June, and they will be discussing global warming.
For more information, you can contact Danna Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 361-298-0987.