Creating World Hope and Peace

Patricia Peters, the 2023-24 District Governor for Rotary District 5790, is passionate about Rotary, its programs, and especially one of its current projects focusing on mental health. She currently leads the thousands of members in the 67 Rotary clubs in North Central Texas and the Plains. Rotary, one of the first service organizations in the world, was founded in 1905 by attorney Paul P. Harris in Chicago. The name originally reflected the practice of rotating meetings among members’ offices. Today, that refers more to the yearly rotation of all officers and staff, constantly opening doors for fresh ideas and visions. The modern Rotary is a worldwide coalition with 1.3 million professional members with diverse backgrounds from more than 200 countries. Patricia has been a member of the Decatur Rotary since 2013. She has served in a number of Rotary capacities, first becoming aware of the Club when she received a scholarship from the Rotary Club of Austin. It was an important step in launching her Bachelor’s degree in music as well as Master’s degrees in English literature and library science. Gordon McInally from Scotland is the president of Rotary International. “His focus is mental health and mental health awareness,” Patricia said. “Each of us has an individual, moral responsibility to do more than just say ‘Hi! How are you?’ and continue walking when we encounter someone we know. Almost every one of those people will answer ‘Fine’ or ‘Great,’ regardless of what’s truly happening to them. That’s what we’ve been taught to say.” She explained that Gordon thought his younger brother was “fine” until he committed suicide in his 50s. “I thought my own sister was ‘fine’ until she took her life in her 40s,” Patricia said. “His family, and my family, suffered tremendous grief and guilt. Why didn’t we see signs and talk to them?” As Rotarians, “one of our top priorities is to reduce the stigma of mental illness and to improve the accessibility of help,” she said. “Mental health care is health care, and it should be a standard part of all insurance policies. “Our district office offers information about It’s worldwide and can be compared to learning CPR. It teaches how to ask the right questions and how to be a good listener. We all must learn how to take the time to listen and to know how to encourage people to seek the appropriate help.” Patricia is also a devoted believer in the practice of mindfulness, which is regularly and intentionally pausing, taking a breath, and being aware of what’s going on around us. Perhaps just sit and be quiet, mentally and physically, for just a few moments. It’s a way of increasing awareness and bringing it to the forefront in a world that’s too loud and too busy. “Most people think of mental health in terms of extremes,” Patricia said. “But mental health includes just being down and blue. That often leads to self-isolation and building depression. Part of what each of us must think about is how do we be good role models and positive examples.

“The only way big changes ever happen is when small changes lead the way. All of this must be an intentional endeavor.” To be intentional, Patricia said, “Reach out to friends and loved ones. Be in touch. Know what’s going on in their lives. Ask the right questions and find out if there’s some way you might help someone, even if it’s just listening to them. They’re almost always appreciative, especially if they sense you’re sincere.” Sincere listening may help. “So many people miss a sense of belonging, and there are so many ways we can help to fill that emptiness. An invitation to dinner at our homes. A lunch or movie meet-up. A cup of coffee.”

Anyone remember when actress Sally Fields accepted her Oscar? She stood there, clutching the golden gentleman, and said to the audience, “You like me! You really like me!” Who knows? Maybe a ten-minute chat over a cup of coffee can prevent someone from making a tragic decision. Maybe, after these people have one experience of belonging, they can be guided to the right help. Take a look at We all have a part to play in making the world a place of hope.

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