I'm going to go ahead and tell you. "Mental Health in the Heartland" has taken a good chunk of time and energy for everyone of the authors in this series. It's a really complex subject, with a lot of background and a lot of faces in a lot of different fields. Just like everyone's least favorite Facebook relationship status — it's complicated.
It reminds me of a story I enjoyed as a child in which several blind mice attempt to comprehend an elephant — one touches the elephant's tail and believes it's a rope, another touches the elephant's foot and believes it's a tree, another touches the elephant's trunk and believes it's a snake, etc. In the end, only one mouse has the wisdom to listen to each of his arguing brethren and realize they only have parts of the whole.
Dear readers, be that mouse.
I know you care. We all do. I read all of the comments when we broke the story of Compass Pointe's closing. I read a lot of similar comments when we broke the story Hope Haven was discontinuing mental health services. We all care, and we want something to be done. Unfortunately, that can devolve into blame, and blame isn't going to get us the change we need.
We like blame. We feel comfortable with it. It's absolute. It's simple. But remember, this is the mental health system we're talking about — it's complicated. The system is too complex for the solution to be limited to one group of players. The mouse isn't wrong when he says the tail seems to be rope. His observations are true, but that doesn't mean he's correct in the conclusion he drew.
Long story short, he just needs to get the widest perspective he can on the issue at hand (and all things in life, in my opinion). That's exactly what your local reporters did for you when we began to plan "Mental Health in the Heartland." That's what this mental health series is about. We listed all the parts of the mental health elephant we could sense, we gathered a large amount of information on each and we distilled those notes and quotes into tinctures potent enough to be powerful but dosed small enough for the average Joe to finish in a few gulps.
That's the job, and I think this series is starting to shine a light on exactly what that job looks like within our community. As I said, we've seen your comments. We've heard the conversations among the church groups. We know you care, so we are trying to show you the elephant — not just the tail, not just the legislature, not just the foot, not just the school counselor, not just the trunk and not just the people in need of services — as much of the elephant as possible.
So, don't pass over this series. It's something tailored for you. And the amazing thing is that it's tailored for you whether you live in Buena Vista, Clay or Dickinson County — or really anywhere within shouting distance of those places. There's no way to be the mouse who understands the synergy of the elephant's parts, if we don't take the time to listen to each aspect.
That's the job.
This is big picture stuff, but it's a big picture of which we are all a part. We know you care, and we do too. So, if this series means something to you, if it resonates with you and awakens a desire to spur change in our community and our state, then what we've done on these pages of newsprint is worthwhile. And, if you recognize the value of what we've done, then I hope our communities also begin to remember the importance of not only a free press, but a local press — not a social media post, not a talking head on cable news providing an analysis (a fancy word for opinion piece, by the by), but a team of real people you know, sitting in a real office (which you're welcome to visit anytime during business hours). It's those sorts of people who work hard to write stories that are important to the community — like the myriad of stories making up "Mental Health in the Heartland."
That's the job.