Eight busy professionals devoted two hours of their time at Rhode Island PBS studios last Thursday night to do what they love and do best: LISTEN, answer questions, offer hope.
The volunteers - officers and members of the board of directors of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI) in Pawtucket - fielded more than 30 phone calls in response to the Rhode Island PBS August 28th broadcast of Men Get Depression. The documentary explores depression's corrosive effect on the self, relationships, and careers, through the intimate profiles of real men, including a former NFL Quarterback, a Fortune 500 CEO, an Iraq War veteran, a university professor, a pastor, and others.
Thirty calls came in during the one-hour broadcast and for 30 minutes after; two more calls, referring to the documentary, came into the MHARI office the next day.
Rhode Island PBS provided the phone bank and ran a "crawl" across the lower third of the television screen during the broadcast, inviting viewers to speak with local mental health specialists who were waiting to take calls.
The phones were quiet for about the first 10 minutes while the men featured in the documentary introduced their stories. All of a sudden, the phones began to ring and, soon, all eight specially trained volunteers were busy providing information and making referrals to treatment resources. The MHARI officers and board members who staffed the phones were Vivian Weisman, executive director; Scotti Didonato, president; Tricia S. O'Neil, CFA, treasurer; H. Reed Cosper, Esq., mental health advocate for the state of Rhode Island; Nicholas Trott Long, Esq.; Deb Morais; Mark Fields; and Kristen O'Neil.
At 9:45 PM – 15 minutes after the show ended – new calls were still coming in, and all eight volunteers were still on the phones.
MHARI Executive Director Vivian Weisman reports that 14 calls were from men seeking information for themselves; 18 calls were from women, 11 of whom were calling about a male family member. Twelve callers left contact information for follow-up.
"Depression is treatable," Ms. Weisman said. "But it takes that first step."
Last Thursday, 32 people took that important first step.
This is the power of local public television – making the connections that make a real difference in people's lives. It's a unique role, one only public television can fill.
Contact the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island by calling 401-726-2285, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Men Get Depression, visit http://www.mengetdepression.com/