DEFIANCE – For 16 years, NAMI Four County has lit a candle — actually hundreds of candles now — the first Sunday every October to raise awareness, understanding and support for individuals and families living with mental illness through its Candlelight Vigil for Mental Health. The public is invited to share in that message starting at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4 at St. John United Church of Christ, 950 Webster St. in Defiance.
With speakers sharing their experiences and messages of recovery, the program and walk provides a clear beacon of hope. It begins with the understanding that mental illness is a brain disease just as cardiovascular diseases affect the heart. And, they are common – affecting one in four adults and at least one in ten children and adolescents every year. These brain disorders have a cause and various medical treatments are successful in controlling symptoms nearly 80 percent of the time.
Prelude music for the Candlelight Vigil begins about 5:50 p.m. After the program, weather-permitting, a short walk will be held across the Defiance College campus with refreshments and fellowship at the church following the walk.
“Unfortunately, only about 9 of every 25 persons with symptoms of a diagnosable mental illness ever seek the medical help that is so effective,” said NAMI secretary Lou Levy. “Our speakers’ messages are ones of encouragement and support to seek that medical help that offers hope for a life where symptoms are controlled and managed. So, individuals and families can live, love and enjoy life again,” he said.
Speakers at this year’s candlelight vigil include Lee Dunham, president of NAMI Ohio; Valarie Lashaway, a NAMI Basics class instructor; Kevin “Squishy” Barber, a professional comedian and Pastor Tim Reynolds from Zion’s Lutheran Church in Defiance.
The candlelight vigil marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from Oct. 4 to 10. In addition to the vigil, NAMI Four County in cooperation with seven behavioral health care providers have distributed some 20,000 place mats and tray liners through nearly 35 area restaurants, senior centers, hospitals and community meal sites to raise community awareness of mental health and where to turn for help.
Additionally, NAMI Four County, with support from the Sandy Potter Memorial Fund, has distributed nearly 3,800 bookmarks for public libraries in Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Paulding and Williams counties to share with patrons as they check out books.
Ron Hofacker, coordinator of the vigil, explains, “Our goal is to encourage people to think of brain health the same way they do heart health and recognize that when symptoms occur, they need to seek medical help. The problems won’t go away on their own.”
Mood disorders such as depression are the most common mental illnesses. Symptoms that are typical of depression include:
- Persistent sad or irritable mood,
- Noticeable changes in sleep, appetite and energy,
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or remembering,
- Lack of interest in or pleasure from activities that were once enjoyed,
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and emptiness,
- Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain that do not respond to treatment, and
- Re-occurring thoughts of death or suicide.
If three or more of these symptoms occur, last more than two weeks and interfere with ordinary functioning, it is recommended that the person seek medical help.
“We especially want individuals and families to know that help is available, many times starting with their family doctor,” Hofacker said. “And, for those with Medicaid or high insurance deductibles and on a limited income, help is available through the ADAMhs Board system.”
For information about where to get help, visit NAMI Four County’s website: www.namifourcounty.org or call 2-1-1. The website also lists all of the local NAMI chapter’s meetings and free mental health education classes and support groups. All NAMI meetings, programs, classes and support groups are open to the public.