Women’s Fund involves nine area communities in new mental health initiative

For the first time since its founding in 1996, the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana is supporting an initiative that’s not exclusive to females.

The Women’s Fund, a special interest fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, announced Wednesday morning that it has convened nine communities in central Indiana, nine universities, and several not-for-profits, foundations, health care systems and private companies to support a national mental health initiative.

The Campaign to Change Direction, started by Bethesda, Maryland-based not-for-profit Give an Hour, encourages educating the public about the five signs of mental illness and having open conversations about mental health.

“When we became aware of this public health campaign, while it’s not exclusive to women and girls, we knew we had the capacity through our community leadership to implement this in central Indiana,” said Jennifer Pope Baker, executive director of the Women’s Fund. “We felt we couldn't say no to this.”

According to Mental Health America, 20 percent of Indiana adults have a mental illness and 12 percent of the state’s youth have experienced at least one depressive episode in the past year.

And depression is twice as common in women as in men, which is why the Women’s Fund decided the campaign is still aligned with its mission, Baker said.

The cities supporting the initiative are Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville, Westfield, Zionsville, Greenfield, Shelbyville and Crawfordsville.

Higher educational institutes promoting the cause are Butler University, DePauw University, Indiana University, IUPUI, Ivy Tech Community College, Marian University, Martin University, Purdue University and the University of Indianapolis.

Other entities involved are the CICF, the Indianapolis Foundation, Legacy Fund, Indy Public Safety Foundation, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Marion County Public Health Department, Community Health Network, Riverview Health, Eskenazi Health and the Alpha Mu Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

“Everybody, almost without exception, has said, ‘yes’ immediately,” said Baker, who has been reaching out to various organizations and communities since January.

Baker said they hope to add more businesses to the list, but one major company—Eli Lilly and Co.—has already signed on.

“May 31 is our kickoff. It’s not the end game. It’s the start,” Baker said.

The goal is to educate Hoosiers so every resident knows how to recognize the five signs of emotional suffering—personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness— within five years.

The partners are not required to provide any financial support to the Women’s Fund or contribute any funding toward the initiative.

The Women’s Fund awarded a $25,000 grant to Give an Hour, which allows the local group to have access to the campaign programming and materials, and the ability to share that with the local partners at no cost.

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