By:  DG Marion Cheney, RC of Dover
October is Mental Health Awareness Month
Every January Rotary International hosts the International Assembly that provides training and programming for District Governor Elects (DGEs). This year, Rotary International President-Elect Gordon McInally shared a story with our captivated audience.
Gordon’s story was about Gordon’s best friend Ian. The two were inseparable. They participated in sports together, went on vacations, served as each other’s best man.
Later in life, Ian started to withdraw from Gordon, family, and friends. Ian went to a very dark place. One day Gordon got a call. Ian had taken his life. Ian was not only Gordon’s best friend, but Ian was also Gordon’s brother.
This story touched me. I have family and friends who have retreated to this darkness that resulted in suicide. I left the Assembly wanting to put a focus on removing the mental health stigma. I didn’t have a clue where to start.
Four months later, while attending the International Convention in Melbourne, Australia, I visited the Rotary Action Group (RAG) Mental Health Initiative booth in the House of Friendship. Perfect timing. This RAG is for members who are interested in breaking stigma, raising awareness, and increasing access to prevention and treatment of mental disorders. An established RAG was a great place to start.
Great News. Rotarian Kiley Wilkens, with the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club, volunteered to lead the charge and apply for our District Charter. District 7780 has formed a Mental Health Committee composed of Rotary members. We are recognized as District 7780 Chapter of the Rotary Action Group- Mental Health Initiatives (RAGMHI).
To improve the mental health and wellness of all Rotarians and community members by offering welcoming, hopeful, and trauma-informed practices and spaces, supporting community connections, and reducing social isolation.
  • Create a campaign which centers curiosity and consent while working to destigmatize mental health struggles and de-shame suicidal ideation.
  • Uplift and support people with lived/living experience as subject matter experts.
  • Enhance community care-seeking and care-giving skills.
  • Identify and promote diverse prevention and healing opportunities.
This is a great start. If you or your club is interested in joining this journey, please reach out to: Kiley Wilkens at