For 19 years, NAMI Four County has lit candles at the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week (October 7-13) to help enlighten the community and boost support for mental health through its annual Candlelight Vigil for Mental Health, an event that is open to the public.
This year’s program starts at 6 p.m. Sunday, October 7 at St. John United Church of Christ, 950 Webster Street on the Defiance College campus. The program features four speakers and the Second Street Strings, a Defiance area dulcimer group, followed by a candlelight walk across the Defiance College campus for those who are able to participate. Refreshments and fellowship follow at the church.
Although mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia are among the most common illnesses, they are among the least treated, according to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health.
About one in five Americans have symptoms of a diagnosable mental illness. That’s nearly 44 million adults in the United States. However, less than 40 percent of those with symptoms of a mental illness ever seek medical help, meaning more than 26 million go untreated.
Although mental illnesses cannot be cured, with medical help – whether counseling, medications or a combination of both – the symptoms can be successfully managed 70 to 90 percent of the time depending on the illness. With treatment, it’s possible to live, laugh and love and still have a mental illness.
Statistics also reveal that mental illnesses affect all kinds of people regardless of gender, race, religion, education, income or age. In fact, one-half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by age 14 with three-quarters starting by age 24.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is “CureStigma.”
“For individuals and families living with mental illness, stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment,” explains Lou Levy, secretary of NAMI Four County. “That’s why our NAMI chapter has sponsored the candlelight vigil for 19 years – to help our community better understand mental illness and learn that there is hope.
“The good news about stigma is that it’s 100 percent curable. Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote. And, all of us can be part of the cure, especially those who are not directly impacted by mental illness.”
Speakers for the local candlelight program include Myrna Mitchell, a family member from Bryan; Bev Miller, who has lived with bipolar disorder since her early 20s and is now co-owner of M.E. Miller Tire near Wauseon; Rev. Max Begley, senior pastor at the Second Baptist Church, Defiance; and Tonie Long, program director of the Four County LOSS (Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide) Team.
In addition to the vigil, NAMI Four County has distributed nearly 20,000 mental health awareness placemats and tray liners to 32 area restaurants, hospitals, senior centers and community meal locations for use in September and October.
For those who cannot attend the vigil in person, but would like to see the program, TV-26 Northwest Ohio Hometown Television will rebroadcast the program at 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays starting Monday, Oct. 8. Or, a link to the program will be provided on NAMI Four County’s website: www.namifourcounty.org.
TV 26 is re-broadcasting last year’s Candlelight Vigil program now through Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays.