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Opinion Letters Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct. 6-13

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is Oct. 6-13, and is an opportunity to learn more about serious mental illnesses. It’s time to make a difference. Let’s stop history from repeating itself. Mental illness does not discriminate. It can strike anyone at any time. These are brain disorders and like other illnesses, recovery is possible. Treatment works — if a person can get it.

Unfortunately, there are long delays — sometimes decades — between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help. Less than one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with a diagnosed illness receive treatment. Everyone should know about the nature of mental illness and treatment options available. To bring awareness of mental illness and its impact on individuals and families, NAMI Appalachian South, the local affiliate of NAMI NC and national NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is sponsoring several events.

NAMI, in conjunction with the Macon County library, will feature a display at the library with pamphlets, local information and some very readable books and DVDs that can be checked out about many aspects of mental illness and other brain disorders. NAMI’s nationally recognized 10-week course, Peer-to- Peer will kick off on Oct. 1 in Franklin. This is a free course designed for individuals dealing with the challenges of a mental illness. Register by calling Ann at (828)369-7385. A Fun Fundraiser Sidewalk Sale will be in the Palmer St. Mall on Oct. 19 with information available about local resources. In conjunction with Smoky Mountain Center and Southwestern Community College, NAMI Appalachian South will sponsor the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement officers and others involved in crisis situations where mental illness is a factor Oct. 21-25. Contact Curtis Dowdle (828)306-7040 to register. On Saturday, Nov. 16, there will be “A Big Event for Teachers and Parents: Children and Youth Mental Illness Awareness and Suicide Prevention.” NAMI members will be presenting the program “Parents and Teachers as Allies” and the Jason Foundation will present “Youth Suicide Prevention.” Lunch, CEUs and exhibits about local resources will be available. Contact Linda at (828)369-7184 or Donita at (828)526-9510 to register.

The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help when they need it. In addition to the pain and agony of the person with a mental illness, family strain is an enormous “hidden cost” of untreated mental Illness. That’s why MIAW is so important and why NAMI emphasizes the messages: “You are not alone”; “Mental illness is no one’s fault”; “There is help and hope.”

Local NAMI events are funded by grants from Macon County Community Foundation, Macon County Funding Pool and a gift from the Neidig Family Charitable Foundation.

Ann Nandrea, President NAMI Appalachian South

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