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Summit County -- A kickoff event for Change Direction Summit County begins at 11:30 a.m. July 22 at Lock 3 to change the culture of mental health. More events are planned for July 23 and 24.
Speakers include Garrett Hart, The Summit.FM, which plays Rock and Recovery music for anyone with mental health issues. The music has positive messages that encourages those who may be depressed or need an uplifting message.
At noon Elizabeth Walters, representing Summit County Executive Russ Pry and County Council; Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan; and Congressman Tim Ryan will speak about "Why Summit County."
Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, who will speak at 12:10 p.m., said Change Direction is a national organization but this is the first county-wide event. Cards will be available that show the five signs of emotional suffering.
"The goal is to encourage everyone to pay attention to our emotional well-being," Van Dahlen said.
The cards with non-happy faces gives everyone a common language to recognize emotional suffering in friends, co-workers and self.
They include "not feeling like u," "feeling agitated?" "r u withdrawn?" "caring 4 yourself" and "feeling hopeless?"
Many people know the signs of a heart attack but don't know the sign of emotional suffering, Van Dahlen said.
"If you see them in others, the thing to do is to be compassionate, reach out, connect with that person and help," Van Dahlen said.
First Lady Michelle Obama is an advocate of the program and gives everyone permission to say something, Van Dahlen said.
"You never say to a breast cancer patient, 'suck it up and get over it' so why do we treat mental illness as if they can will their way out of it?" she said. "It's not realistic."
By educating citizens and talking more openly, people become more comfortable with the topic of mental illness, she said.
ADM Executive Director Jerry Craig will talk at 12:30 p.m. about local initiatives and Eric Walton is the keynote speaker at 12:45 p.m.
More information is available at www.changedirection.org/tag/summit-county.