Mental illness week begins

The Tallahassee chapter of the National Association of the Mentally Ill will host a candlelight vigil Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Gazebo across from the Leon County Library on Park Avenue.

The event will begin Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs from Oct. 6 – 14.

It will honor people suffering from mental health problems and their families and friends. The speaker for the vigil will be County Commissioner Cliff Thaell.

The commissioner is concerned with the issue because “it affects the criminal justice system and the homelessness,” said Martin Green, the commissioner’s aid. “There is a problem in Florida with the state government cutting resources for health treatment.”

The mental illness week is celebrated each year during the first full week of October. Other events for the week will include a speech on mental health problems by John Paschal on Oct. 7, and a free depression screening Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in the Behavioral Health Center. For appointments call (850) 431-5100.

There will also be the 2002 Iris Awards Dinner Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church. The dinner will recognize community members who have provided outstanding service to those who suffer from brain disorders. For reservations to the dinner call (850) 894-2454.

Dennis Platt, M.D., will be speaking on Bipolar Disorder Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

All events are free to the public with the exception of the 2002 Iris Awards Dinner.

Pat Stephens, the coordinator of NAMI Tallahassee, Inc. and one of the week’s organizers, said the events would bring mental illness to the mind of the public. They will make “others aware and establish hope,” she said. “It’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Stephens said having several family members, including one of her children, diagnosed with a brain disorder and mental illness “teaches you to be nicer about what you say about people” and makes you less judgmental.

NAMI, founded in 1979, is the nation’s leading grassroots advocacy self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families and friends of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders.

For more than 20 years NAMI has been the nation’s voice on mental illness. It reaches hundreds of thousands of people. It has over 220,000 members and more than 1,200 local affiliates nationwide.

The message the NAMI family has promoted since its beginning is the importance of mental illness awareness. Awareness of mental illness offers a critical opportunity to advance NAMI’s mission of evidence-based and equitable treatment, increased research, and humane recovery-oriented services for those with mental illness while educating the media, policymakers, educators, and community at large.