The Mental Health & Aging Conference in Sacramento, CA

#GivingTuesday donations make it possible for us to collect stories like those shared at this conference.

Custom Programs Manager Jana Ross brought the work of Erasing the Distance to California. Here, she shares some thoughts on her experience…

“On the morning of November 8, I arrived with three actors to the Mental Health & Aging Conference in Sacramento, California. We’d flown into town from Chicago the night before, settling in at hotel across the street from the conference venue and grabbing dinner at a nearby restaurant as soon as we got in. The actors on this particular trip ranged from a long-time Erasing the Distance veteran to a first-time performer with us. 

Our performance was scheduled for first thing the next morning, right after the opening remarks of the conference. We arrived early to the venue–a ballroom space–to find it completely packed and full of friendly, caffeinated energy. After some minor technical difficulties, (the IT staffer was in high panic mode, bless his heart) we got our actors mic’d up and ready to go. THE PERFORMANCE WAS POWERFUL, thanks to their hard work along with the work of our directors, and the talkback stretched on beyond the typical length. Person after person shared about how they had experienced similar feelings to those described in the stories. One woman thanked us for giving our tellers dignity in the way we choose to shape and share their words. Another described her husband’s silent struggle with PTSD as almost identical to the one she saw performed. Because we were in a room of mental health professionals, we also heard questions about the application of our work in different settings, how we manage relationships with tellers, and how we take care of our own team in the process of handling such sensitive material. A really INTERESTING, ROBUST CONVERSATION.

There was a break in the schedule right after our talkback, and it took a good half hour to get to the lobby because there were so many people interested in chatting with us one-on-one. Some wanted to thank the actors, others wanted more information about bringing us to their own organization, and still others wanted more information about sharing their own story. It was beautiful and humbling to meet so many people working in their own corners of the world to fight stigma and empower people around issues of mental health, and I think I can speak for both myself and the actors when I say that we were honored to be a part of it.

Thank you, Jana!! We are so grateful for all of your work.


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