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Boston To Address Mental Health Stigma

Residents are invited to a public hearing with Boston Public Schools and the Boston Public Health Commission on Tuesday night to address mental health issues, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Newtown, CT.

Tuesday's Boston City Council hearing addressing the stigma of mental health illnesses comes just days after a tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT.

As the nation continues to mourn and wonder why the shooter did what he did, the question of his mental health is being openly discussed. Were there warning signs? Did he ever seek treatment? 

For many people, there is a stigma attached to seeking mental health help. On Tuesday night, At-Large Boston City Councilor Felix G. Arroyo is hosting a hearing on "ending the mental health stigma and how the city can be a part of the effort."  

Previously, Arroyo assembled a task force of mental health organizations that will be represented at the hearing to discuss their work and the collaborative effort to end the stigma.

“Mental illnesses affect many different people of all ages and backgrounds, but due to the stigma, many mental illnesses go undiagnosed and untreated," Arroyo said in a statement. "This hearing is the first step of the task force I brought together to improve the way we treat mental health in our city.”

Representatives of the the Boston Public Schools will discuss the district's work in helping students learn emotionally, as well as academically. A new partnership with Partners HealthCare and its founding hospitals Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospital is providing $1 million to the Boston Public Health Commission. The Health Commission is working to implement "a social and emotional learning curriculum for 7,000 students in 23 Boston public elementary and K-8 schools."

“Every day we look for innovative ideas and strategies that we can use to support our students,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carol R. Johnson. “Social and emotional learning is critically important to our students so they can learn strategies that will help them manage their feelings and cultivate healthy relationships. We want each student to be their very best, and we look forward to working with our partners on this initiative to ensure that our students achieve all of their goals.”

A spokesperson for Boston Public Health Commission said people don’t think twice about asking their friends and family for advice on a whole host of medical issues, but the same can’t be said when it comes to the topic of mental health. 

"There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety that comes with talking openly about mental health, but it doesn’t help anyone to sweep these issues under the rug," said Nick Martin, director of communications for the BPHC. "We need to dispel the myth that talking about mental health signifies some sort of weakness." 

Residents with life experiences of dealing with the stigma of mental health will testify. Also expected to speak: state Rep. Liz Malia D-Jamaica Plain, National Alliance on Mental Illness of MA, Latin American Health Institute and MPOWER.

The meeting is open to the public and is being held at 6 p.m. at Boston City Hall's Iannella Chamber on the five floor. 

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