Community gathers for roundtable on mental health and treatment

Community gathers for roundtable on mental health and treatment
Source: NBC12

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - The deadly shooting in Florida is weighing heavy on communities across the country and here in Central Virginia.

At Hanover High School Thursday, parents joined with their children to hear from a panel of experts to discuss mental health and the resources available to help break the cycle of depression. The idea is, if you feel something, say something.

While the event was planned well before Wednesday's Florida school shooting, that tragedy made the topic even more relevant. Could Florida's deadly shooting allegedly by a former student have been prevented?

"He had struggled with mental health and mental illness as well," said Family Therapist Ashley Soukup.

She spoke in front of a crowded auditorium of parents and students.

"What would have happened for him, and happened for that community, if we had gotten the message that they're providing today much, much sooner for him?" Soukup asked.

Survivors like Drew Bergman serve as an example you can overcome depression. At 16, he tried to take his life.

"I used to think that my suicide would actually make my family, my siblings, my peers, their lives easier, because they wouldn't have to deal with me anymore," he said.

He embraced his struggle to get help.

"The day that I started to talk about mental health was truly the day that I started to feel better," Bergman suggested.

That's the message local experts want to share. There is help for you and your child, even given the current climate that finds so many youth battling anxiety due to social media.

"When we went home, we shut off completely and we didn't have to deal with anything until the next day, whereas now kids stay on the phone and it's constant, constant," Bergman said.

That's where the adult comes in.

"'Maybe you should put that down for a second and let's go for a walk'…Coming home and saying 'Oh, I've had the worst day. I don't even know why. I just feel like it's been a bad day and I don't know what to do, and will you come with me to take the dog on a walk?' Living by example. Picking up the phone [and saying] 'Oh, no God. Why did I do that? I need a break from that'. Live by example. We can do it," said Grace Gallagher, whose daughter battled depression.

Especially since unresolved depression can reach a critical and tragic boiling point.

"To get them support and services in a much more quicker manner, so that it doesn't escalate to what happened yesterday," Soukup said.

There is a wealth of resources that you can contact anonymously to get help for you or someone you know. One of them is the National Hopeline. The number is 1-800-442 HOPE.

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