Speaker urges caregivers, community to be respectful with mental illness

Joel Stack, founder of RESPECT, International, greets a crowded Ingle Auditorium at Missouri School for the Deaf Thursday. Stack was in Fulton Wednesday and Thursday working with Fulton State Hospital staff and clients, which culminated in a public speech Thursday on the importance of respect in the mental health environment.

Joel Stack, founder of RESPECT, International, greets a crowded Ingle Auditorium at Missouri School for the Deaf Thursday. Stack was in Fulton Wednesday and Thursday working with Fulton State Hospital staff and clients, which culminated in a public speech Thursday on the importance of respect in the mental health environment. Photo by Dean Asher.

Joel Slack knows first-hand that something as simple as a reassuring, helping hand can go a long way in the journey to mental health and recovery.

The mental healthcare advocate and consultant, who Fulton State Hospital officials credit with helping the institution shift to a more recovery-oriented model 13 years ago, returned to Fulton this week as part of his Respect Seminar. Slack gave a speech to a packed Ingle Auditorium Thursday, detailing his own experiences with mental health and urging hospital staff, clients and the general public to be respectful.

Stack is the founder of RESPECT, International, and the Respect Institute, which encourages people living with mental illness to come forth at speaking engagements to discuss their own paths to recovery in order to battle stigma.

“I’ve found that other mental health programs didn’t work because they were just trying to convince people that we’re ‘just not that dangerous.’ I found that made people even more suspicious,” he said. “The best way is for people who have experienced it to stand up and tell their story.”

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