From Where I Sit: Let’s talk about mental health and addiction

 

She’s funny. She’s witty. She’s caring and compassionate. She’s a business owner. And she’s created something that didn’t exist before. These days, she’s feeling pretty good and she ought to. Making things happen can be intoxicating.

I sat down with Sharon Clark last week to learn more about Open Minds, an event that will be held next Tuesday at Germanna’s Daniel Technology Center. For 10 years, Sharon was the Pampered Me Pink lady bringing cancer awareness to the forefront through a collaboration with Greg Napps at the hospital. Hundreds would turn out to learn more, share stories, donate money so women could have mammograms and feel strong, hopeful, resilient and come away smiling. Sharon passed the baton on that project but wasn’t done. She had another idea. This time she’d tackle mental health and addiction. So, she started some seven months ago, connecting with others that might partner with her vision. Folks at Germanna, Culpeper Wellness Foundation, and Novant Health/UVA Health System in addition to countless nonprofits focused on surviving, support and tackling the tough issues that have left families struggling for answers and relief like Team Jordan.

With Sharon was Dr. Karyn O’Brien, a clinical psychologist and senior director of behavioral

health services at Novant Health UVA Health System, who will be the keynote speaker at the event, including other psychiatrists and therapists that will conduct a panel discussion.

For these two women, their hope is that conversations can begin to erase the stigma associated with behavioral health challenges. In talking with Dr. O’Brien she is quick to point out, as an example, that relapse is part of the addiction process. It’s heartbreaking for the individual and those who care about them but it’s part of the process that hopefully will lead to recovery. As a society, we’ve tended to criminalize addiction, devalue the person who is suffering, and make a moral judgment about their character and those associated with them. There is a tremendous amount of pain but, as challenging as it may be, it helps to talk about it and not only talk about it but learn of resources that can help.

The energy, enthusiasm, passion, mission and vision of these two women is inspiring, contagious and exciting.

Running a retail store is all about making connections between your customers and their particular fancies. It’s about communication, having conversations, making them feel and look spectacular.

Sharon knows how to do this. She knows how to sparkle. She knows what invigorates. Pamper Me Pink had a more party atmosphere even though dealing with a poignant topic. Open Minds will take on a different tone but at it’s heart, the focus is on touching lives and making a difference.

Mental health and addiction. Tough topics.

Come with an open mind, Tuesday, May 23, from 5-8 p.m. at Daniel Technology Center.

 

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