In 2018 Dr. Bill Harbron, Superintendent of the Dover School District approached Suzanne Weete from Community Partners with the need and desire to engage the community in addressing mental health for the youth of Dover and the community at large.
The pair began to work together to host workshops and events focused on mental health such as:
-a presentation to parents and the general community by Scarlett Lewis from Choose Love
-Former NH Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick, spoke to the Dover High School and Dover Middle School student body
-Created Student Voice workshops for Dover youth with Kim Stevens and Steve Pappajohn, Dover Teen Center
Bill and Suzanne recognized the need to widen the circle to include more people in the community to tackle mental health education and suicide prevention. In June of 2019 they hosted the Mental Illness, Suicide Prevention and Our Community Summit at Wentworth Douglass Hospital. The summit involved high level, community stakeholders to gauge the interest for community-wide partnerships to tackle education, awareness and stigma around the challenges of mental illness.
Executive Summary derived from the summit: Planting our Seeds
The major outcome of the summit was the discovery that the Dover community needs and wants relevant mental health education, suicide prevention education and stigma elimination and this challenge must met by the entire community. They identified the need to include business leaders, faith leaders, medical professionals of all disciplines, small and large business owners, first responders, civic leaders and citizens as part of the solution.
Between August 2019 and June 2021, eighteen meetings of the “mental health workgroup” were held, despite the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens, faith leaders, medical professionals, small and large business owners, social service providers, first responders, civic leaders, school administrators and multiple non-profit organizations came together to develop the framework for what is now known as the Dover Mental Health Alliance. They worked together to develop the vision, mission, logic model, social media presence and initial directives of the DMHA.
By the end of June 2021, the DMHA had started facilitating Mental Health First Aid and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) trainings throughout the community as well as holding a suicide awareness virtual walk. This was just the beginning.