Creating Community Solutions for Mental Health - Sumter, SC




Number of Participants: 


With what other organizations in your community did you partner when convening this conversation, if any?: 

Citizens Center for Public Life, SC Human Affairs Commission, Myrtle Beach Human Rights Council, SC African American Heritage Foundation, Myrtle Beach Muddle School

What were the most important things you learned during the process of organizing the dialogue?: 

A new non-profit, the Citizens Center for Public Life (CCPL), has assumed the deliberative dialogue work of the university Laboratory for Deliberative Democracy(LDD) as the LDD concluded it's work in this area.  Intermediary institutions such as non-profits need to be willing to step up and fill the void if other institutions can no longer fulfill such responsibilities; the Citizen's Center has been able to do this with no break in support for the citizens of South Carolina.  Though the CCPL is a new organization, the officers are not new to deliberative dialogue or to public life.  In the case of the LDD the chief executive transitioned her deliberative dialogue and complimentary community action work to the CCPL.

Reference the specific "Valuing Human Life" dialogue for the Myrtle Beach, SC, Martin Luther King Freedom Celebration, CCPL staff found that the issue as the community was thinking of it was very complicated.  It was a difficult task to name and frame the issue and to integrate all the social concerns Myrtle beach citizens had into one structured dialogue format conducive to deliberation.  But, it was found that the previous work with the CCS forums in the Lowcountry and Florence, SC helped to not only incorporate mental health concerns were appropriate but also enabled the  CCPL staff to have the confidence necessary to moderate  the "Value of Human Life" dialogue in such a way to enable it to be deliberative.

What did you identify as the key issues affecting mental health in your community and especially the mental health of your community‚Äôs young people?: 

Within the "Valuing Human Life" forum held in Myrtle Beach there were four areas that the dialogue was focused around:  1. "Rebuilding the Social Safety Net;"  2.  "Community & Police Relations;"  3. "Rstorative Justice Approaches in Order to Eliminate the Birth to Prison Phenomina for African American Boys and Men;" and  4. "Restoring Democracy to Traditional American Values of Inclusiveness, Fairness, and Compassion."  Mental Health components were  incorporated in each of the focus areas.  The social safety net  component centered around issues of councilors in schools and early identification of mental health problems, but also included a discussion on health factors leading to mental health issues as well as other social concerns.  The community and police focus area included a discussion on the need for police to be trained how to identify and handle people with mental health problems.  The restorative justice focus considered the long term psychological impacts of child abuse and other adverse childhood experiences,  as well as discrimination, the influence of substance abuse, and the implications of sentancing instead of treatment for those involved with criminal activity.  The restoring democracy focus area included the acknowledgement that all human life is valuable and all humans - even those with physical or mental health problems can be supported in order for them to better meet thier individual potential.

What did you identify as the current strategies being used to address mental health challenges in your community? What are the challenges facing those strategies? : 

The CCPL believes strongly of the benefit of establishing a framework to initiate community action on the efforts of citizens participating in a deliberative dialogue and wants to more fully establish this tradition within SC.  It is still difficult for people to realize the benefit and value of deliberative dialogue experiences  form a valuable foundational framework for community action. 

Even after a corporate social responsibility person contacted the Executive Director of the LDD (and the CCPL) and spoke of the quality dialogue held in the lowcountry and said they wanted to help accomplish more dialogue in the state and asked what could they do to help, it has been difficult to encourage other communities to host dialgues. The corporate representative asked if money would help.   Our response was yes, but that the communities needed the support more in order to implement the actions they decide upon after engaging in a forum.   As a non-profit the CCPL does need financial assistance in order to dedicate more time to deliberative dialogue work and the follow up support for the complimentary action  we believe can transpire from deliberative dialogue.  Corporate America could share in the responsibility of supporting this community action.

During forums citizens often identify government as responsible for funding action ideas.  Adiquate deliberation needs to happen for them to come to a conclusion that there are others who can fund projects and that the citizens themselves can achieve much with "no" additional funding.

What actions did you identify that your community can pursue to improve mental health, especially among young people?: 

Complimentary community action from the Myrtle Beach forum is ongoing.  Currently a celebration is planned for June of 2015 to honor and acknowledge the service of  law enforcement members from 15 different jurisdiction along the Grand Strand from Little River to Georgetown, SC.  The intent is to enhance the relationship between the community and police and to continue mutual work to ensure public safety and to promote  continued communication, unity, trust, understanding, and mutual respect.

 "In a way this is a venue to help insure the ongoing mental health and well being of the community-particularly in light of some of the police and community media hype and chaos that has happened in other areas in the country," said a CCPL Board member.  Plus, with a history of crowd violence in 2014 during the Memorial Day Bikers Week, Myrtle Beach citizens felt it important to do more than the technical traffic and security infrastructure endeavors city officials were implementing; the citizens wanted to help.  They held the "Valuing Human Life" forum, planned the law enforcement appreciation banquet, and have formed committees to continue many more community projects.

Additionally,CCPL membrs are planning to develop a National Issues Forum style issue guide on the issue of Community and Police Relations.

Myrtle Beach citizens have continued to meet to plan separate community projects as a result of the  "Valuing Human Life" conversation.  Also, a committee is forming to seek grants for juvenile and restorative justice programs.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your conversation?: 

The Citizens Center for Public Life, headquarted in Sumter, SC, has also worked with other community groups to provide forums on community problems,  share resources and information about current funding and program support and training opportunities, and provide grant writing assistance.  This community action support commitment  by the CCPL cannot solely be creadited to the CCS campaign, but the increased confidence of the CCPL members that they have good skills that can make a difference in helping communities acieve what communities desire and ultimately helping citizens make a difference in thier own and thier neighbors lives cannot be underestimated!  Creating Community Solutions for Mental Health work helped achieve this outcome related to CCPL member self-confidence and efficacy. 

Possibly self-confidence is an outcome of individual mental health that society should pay more attention to.

More reseach on the potential of self-confidence to modivate individual leaders and group community leadership activities may be called for!