Berkshire County Mental Health Legislative Forum

Forum looks at mental health progress, challenges facing Berkshires

The life story of a 39-year-old Berkshire County woman named Tammy starts with childhood abuse, leading to lifelong bouts of depression, and multiple suicide attempts.

But the latest chapter of her life features more stability, a loving fiancée, and the ability to live at home and not in a hospital bed.

After sharing the details of her struggles and successes during the annual Berkshire County Mental Health Legislative Forum on Monday, Tammy received a standing ovation from the more than 60 mental health professionals, community members and a couple of state legislators gathered in the auditorium of the Berkshire Athenaeum.

The forum is a sort of state-of-the-state, as told by local legislators, of what’s happening with state policies and proceedings designed to support the rights and care of people with mental health disorders. Experts working in the field then have the opportunity to offer feedback to delegates about what’s working and what’s not.

Tammy urged attendees to continue to advocate and support people like her, not through only legislation, but also through genuine attempts to understand and try to relate with the circumstances and experiences people with mental health disorders — like, anxiety, depression, addiction, stress and trauma — are going through.

“I feel like there is still a lot of stigma for people with mental illness,” Tammy said. “But people change, people get better, people grow.”

Some members of the Berkshire delegation were unable to attend due to the snow, but Sen. Benjamin B. Downing and Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, both Pittsfield Democrats, were on hand to field questions during the 90-minute forum, introduced by NAMI Berkshire County Executive Director Brenda Carpenter, and moderated by Brien Center CEO Christine Macbeth.

»Read the full article at the Berkshire Eagle