I recently had the honor of being one of the people giving opening remarks at the eighth annual Nicholas J. Halias Safety Symposium at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH. The symposium was named for Nicholas Halias, UNH Police Chief from 2000 to 2012, who died at age 67. Chief Halias brought to his UNH role expertise he developed during thirty years with the New Hampshire State Police, addressing public safety concerns on campus and throughout Durham with compassion and professionalism.
The symposium’s goal is to provide training on mental health topics to first responders and mental health counselors to both destigmatize mental illness and give participants tools needed to help people in crisis. The topic this year was Youth Mental Health Challenges & Depression, A Pathway to Hope.
In my opening remarks, I pointed out that without a large contingent of people passionate about oral and overall health, the adult Medicaid dental benefit legislation that passed in July of 2022 would never have passed. We need a similar groundswell of support for mental health. As the number of mental health advocates grows, a shared passion for improving current practices and policies is more likely to result in changes that are both effective and sustainable.
Each year this free symposium attracts law enforcement officials, teachers, counselors and medical professionals, who attend sessions on a variety of topics. This year during one session retired NH Supreme Court Justice John Broderick gave a presentation on Youth Mental Health Experienced in NH Schools and current NH Supreme Court Justice Gordon MacDonald updated the audience on Mental Health Effects on the Criminal Justice System.
Before the informational sessions began, event organizers recognized my ongoing mental health advocacy by presenting me with an award for my support of the symposium and my commitment to mental health awareness. While I was surprised by this award, I am also very thankful because it gives me a great opportunity to advocate for mental health awareness.
I encourage you to become an advocate for mental health if you are not one already. To deepen your understanding of mental health issues and how they impact our state, I recommend you attend next year’s Nicholas J. Halias Safety Symposium.