500 Conversations about Mental Health #BreakTheSilence #OnTheTable2016
March 16, 2016

The Kennedy Forum is initiating 500 conversations with 5,000+ people on May 10, 2016. The topic of conversation is mental health and addiction. If you’re prepared to host a conversation with family, friends, co-workers, or another group of people, register here. If you aren’t sure, read more below. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Below is an overview of this initiative.


  1. Fight Stigma, Break the Silence, Raise Awareness
  2. Cultivate a culture of compassion, support and connected community
  3. Demonstrate public support for action on mental health


  1. Engage 5,000+ people across Illinois in mealtime conversations about mental health on May 10.  
    • Encourage conversation hosts, including individuals with lived experience. Goal: 60{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}
    • Purposefully engage diverse individuals and communities. Goal:50{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}
    • Purposefully facilitate conversations between first responders and residents. Goal: 20+ conversations.
  2. Report results of conversations by reporting key data, including the concerns and commitments that people are taking to address mental health challenges and priority issues.


  1. Educate yourself on the goals of this initiative; register to host. (Remember: select ‘Kennedy Forum’ as your partner organization.)
  2. Identify those in your network willing to host a conversation or participate as a conversation guest.
  3. Reach out to those individuals with information to host or attend a conversation.
  4. Host a conversation May 10, 2016, and help us realize our goal to fight the stigma and break the silence.

Basic information for hosts:

  • You determine a location to meet on May 10, 2016 for a mealtime conversation. You can have your breakfast, lunch or dinner wherever you want (e.g. home, workplace, restaurant, church), serve whatever you like, or have everyone bring something or chip in.
  • You decide who you would like to invite. Friends and family? Neighbors? Colleagues? We recommend 10-12 guests at each gathering. If you would like to invite public community members to participate in your gathering, you can indicate your event is open to guests and how many.
  • You determine the theme of your conversation. For example, some possible topics might include: how do I/we experience mental health stigma and how can I/we address it? What can my school do better to detect, address and support students with mental health challenges? What can our company/workplace do to build a culture that supports those with mental health and addiction disorders? What is the new mental health parity law and how can we educate ourselves and others about their rights under the law?
  • If you represent an organization, employer or other large group, you can help The Kennedy Forum elevate the dialogue by sharing this information and encouraging your organization to host multiple conversations. Set a goal for your group, 5 conversations? 10? Let us know how we can help you achieve it.
  • Need more information? Click here and send us your questions. We’ll follow up with you via email or by phone to help answer any questions and assist you with planning.

Download a package of host resources below, which includes: 

  • Sample Host Invitation
  • Sample Guest Invitation
  • A backgrounder to help with invitations and conversation context
  • A 2-page infographic summary of the recent Illinois statewide poll results on mental health
  • Community conversation guides on mental health by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Community conversation information brief
  • The Kennedy Forum’s Report on 2015 Community Conversations about mental health and addiction
  • FAQs on the #BreakTheSilence initiative
  • About The Kennedy Forum Illinois

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More information available to you on the web: 

If you would like to participate in a conversation about mental health/addiction but not as a host, let us know. We will work to connect you to host conversations that invite public guests.

All of us can help address stigma around mental health and addiction. Talking openly about mental illness signals to others that they’re not alone, and it also opens up a dialogue about how we can better treat people with mental illness in the future.