As some of you may know, I am a part of the Chairman and Mayor’s Regional Youth Advisory Council for the city of Rockford and Winnebago County. The council meets once a month to discuss issues both within the community and nation wide. Today, we learned about the state of domestic violence within the community and the idea of the long term effects of trauma on mental health.

One of the more shocking things I learned was that there are 8 arrests every day in Rockford for a domestic violence related incident. This statistic came from a meeting of the 17th Judicial District: Domestic Violence Coordinated Courts. The Mayor then proceeded to say that about 30% of the calls that the police station receives are calls regarding domestic violence. These numbers are staggering and are representative of the state of our community. One important thing to note, however, and I credit Mayor McNamara for bringing this up, is that domestic violence can happen in any situation, regardless of socio-economic, racial, or cultural backgrounds. What we are not going to do is blame a single part of our community for these events, but rather work together to attack the issue at its core. There are multiple victims’ services in the area, including the Remedies Renewing Lives and the Domestic Violence Assistance Order, that actively work to help fix this problem. The best thing for our community to do, in my opinion, is to be proactive in our efforts. Instead of waiting for a case to happen, officials and educated individuals on the topic should go out and teach people in our community about what is considered domestic violence as well as provide a sort of counseling service for those who need it.

This transitions into something I want to touch on about mental health. Mayor McNamara told us that it took months for the City Council to approve a mental health initiative that would only cost $100,000 out of the city’s multi-million dollar budget. However, it only took a very short period of time for the Council to approve the addition of more police officers. While these two policies are unrelated, the time periods in which they were passed represent well what the current agendas of Rockford citizens are. It shows that, unfortunately, not enough emphasis is placed upon mental health within our community. There is far too much stigma around mental health and its validity as a serious issue. It needs to be known that mental health is just as important as physical health and that physical trauma is just as threatening as mental trauma. Steps must be taken to be proactive in helping people from all walks of life deal with stresses that they go through.