For the 17th consecutive year, NAMI Four County will kick-off Mental Health Awareness Week with a candlelight vigil starting at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2 at St. John United Church of Christ, 950 Webster St., Defiance.
Ron Hofacker, the event coordinator, explained that when the program was first planned in 1999 having a candlelight walk was an important way to conclude the program. Symbolically, NAMI was shining a light on mental illness — bringing it out of the darkness of stigma and misunderstanding that frequently prevent people from seeking medical treatment.
“Every year since, we’ve done the candlelight walk across the Defiance College campus,” he said. “Never once have we been rained out. We hope the public will attend the program and walk on Sunday as a show of understanding, compassion and encouragement for individuals and families dealing with mental illness.”
The program begins at 5:50 p.m. with prelude music provided by NAMI member Ed Clinker. Speakers include Wendy Golden, who will be starting a family support group next month in Defiance, Four County ADAMhs board CEO Les McCaslin, St. John United Church of Christ pastor Jim Brehler, and NAMI Four County president Dave Durham. Music during the program will be provided by Jeff and Sarah Tackett.
Mental illness is a common, costly family of illnesses that affect the brain in ways that aren’t fully understood, so there is no cure. However, research continues to gain insight into the causes, and effective treatments that manage the symptoms of mental illness are successful about 60 to 80 percent of the time.
Treatment may involve only therapy; however, medications are often part of the treatment when a severe mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is diagnosed.
Sometimes a family doctor can treat the illness as most psychiatric prescriptions are written by primary care physicians, but many times a therapist or psychiatrist are needed.
Current statistics suggest that at least 20 percent of all adults in the United States will have symptoms of a diagnosable mental illness this year. The disorders are non-discriminatory. Mental illness affects men and women, all racial and ethnic groups, young and old, rich and poor as well as those somewhere in the middle, and persons of all faiths.
Mental illness is costly. Lost wages alone total $193.2 billion a year in the United States. When treatment costs, reduced productivity and disability costs are added, it is estimated that mental illness costs some $300 billion a year, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.
And, the cost isn’t only in dollars.
In 2004, the World Health Organization released a study on the “Disease Burden in North America.” It combined the effect of premature death with the number of years lived with a disability caused by an illness. Mental illness was associated with the greatest disease burden – greater than cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
It found that the disability adjusted years of life lost totaled nearly 9.5 million years for mental illness while the comparable number of years of life lost for cardiovascular diseases was 6.5 million and 5.75 million for cancer.
Although there are many different mental illnesses, anxiety disorders are the most common – affecting about 19 percent of all Americans or 40 million people. Anxiety disorders include phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Anxiety disorders differ from the anxiety that most people feel from time to time as the disorders are more intense, longer lasting, and interfere with work, activities and relationships.
Depression affects about 7 percent of the population or 16 million Americans. Women are more likely than men to have symptoms of depression, and younger adults (age 18 to 25) are more likely than adults 50 and older to have symptoms of depression.
Bipolar disorder affects about 2.8 percent of the population. Although some symptoms of bipolar disorder are typical of depression, the person with bipolar disorder will also experience episodes of mania, which is the opposite of depression. The average age of onset of bipolar disorder is 25.
Schizophrenia affects about one-half of one percent of the population or 1.4 million people. Typical symptoms might include delusions, hallucinations and withdrawal, among others. Onset in males usually occurs in the late teens to early 20s, while with women it is usually late 20s to early 30s.
Emotional, behavioral and mental health issues in children are also common with estimates ranging from 1 in 10 to as high as 1 in 5. The disorders include anxiety, ADHD, autism, eating disorders, depression, schizophrenia and more.
For more detailed information on the signs and symptoms of these brain disorders and more, visit the NAMI national website at www.nami.org. For information on local treatment resources as well as free mental health education and training programs and support groups offered by NAMI Four County, visit www.namifourcounty.org.
Hofacker noted that even though mental illnesses are common, and effective treatments are available to control symptoms, only about 1 in 3 persons with a diagnosable mental illness will ever seek medical help.
“Instead they needlessly suffer…frequently in silence,” he said. “Why? Sometimes they don’t know what’s wrong. But many times, they are ashamed to seek help due to the stigma that is still associated with mental illness.
“That’s why we invite the public to attend our Candlelight Vigil,” he said. And, for those who cannot attend the event on Sunday, it will be taped and broadcast on TV-26 throughout October.
The air dates are 9 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays on TV-26. Or, the program can be viewed on the TV-26 website: www.tv26.net.