October 5, 2010

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

ADMH CELEBRATES MENTAL ILLNESS AWARENESS WEEK

MONTGOMERY – One in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year, and more than one in 17 lives with serious, chronic disorders. Yet, as the U.S. Surgeon General has noted, the stigma associated with mental illness keeps some from getting help when they need it. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has sponsored Mental Illness Awareness Week for more than 20 years with the purpose of increasing awareness of mental illness and reducing stigma. This year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week is being observed October 3-9 with the theme of “Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives.”

Mental illnesses are medical illnesses that can profoundly disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood and ability to relate to others. The most common forms of mental illness are bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a broad range of anxiety disorders. In Alabama, the Department of Mental Health serves more than 100,000 citizens with mental illnesses each year. More than 98 percent of those individuals are experiencing recovery and living in the community.

In recent years, the Alabama Department of Mental Health and other service agencies have continued work to decrease stigma through various public education efforts. Amid reports of post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues increasing among returning troops, programs for returning veterans have served to ease the transition of veterans and family members from active duty to civilian life. Through educating troops and families about how common mental health issues are, more returning veterans are seeking treatment when needed.

ADMH public education efforts such as the recent 10th annual Charley Pell Classic hosted on Friday, October 1, have also served to increase awareness and decrease stigma. Past University of Alabama football players Leroy Jordan and Ray Perkins joined Director of Athletics Mal Moore and more than 100 golfers this past Friday to raise funds to continue the message of the late Charley Pell. Following his success as a player at the University of Alabama and a brilliant coaching career, Pell progressively experienced profound depression and eventually attempted suicide. In his recovery, he became an advocate for people who have experienced mental illnesses. Proceeds from the tournament are used to further Pell’s message of hope and encouragement to those people.

In addition, during the entire month of October, ADMH is hosting the 6th annual Capitol Showcase Consumer Art Exhibition open for public viewing in the Old Supreme Court Library of the Alabama State Capitol. Hundreds of consumers from around the state who have experienced a mental illness, as well as those who have an intellectual disabilities and/or substance use disorders, are showcasing their artwork. This exhibition serves as an excellent opportunity to promote consumer dignity and gain more understanding of individuals ADMH serves. This exhibit is about more than just the artists’ work. They also have the opportunity to share their heartfelt testimonies about the obstacles they have overcome in their lives, why art is an important part of their recovery, and their own personal reasons why they like making art.

With respect to the National Mental Illness Awareness Week, The Alabama Department of Mental Health encourages the public to take the opportunity to learn more about mental illnesses and to reflect on the hope and real possibility of recovery. ADMH Commissioner John Houston said, "Knowing and understanding the facts can help people with symptoms of mental illness seek treatment, as well as help alleviate the stigma attached with having a mental illness."

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RESOURCES

For more information on NAMI and Mental Illness Awareness Week, visit www.nami.org.

Information on mental illness services in the state of Alabama can be obtained by contacting the ADMH Mental Illness Division at 334-242-3642 or by visiting us online at www.mh.alabama.gov.


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