By Annabeth Reeb
Mental Illness is something that is often overlooked and almost always stigmatized. One in five adults experience a serious mental illness in their lifetime. That statistics stays the same for children, as well. That’s a large number, and an even bigger reason to attend the National Alliance on Mental Illness Brazos Valley’s event this Thursday, November 12.
“I love to see the public, peers and volunteers, our heroes, get their time to shine for all of the hard work that they do,” said Marcus Overstreet, Volunteer Veteran Peer Support Specialist while explaining his favorite parts of the event. “It has a great impact on a person’s soul when they are recognized for their efforts. It is a very validating experience,”
A day after Veterans Day, the free event will celebrate mental health, hope, and recovery. Veterans are largely affected by mental illness, making up close to 20% of all national suicides. Celebrating mental health is the perfect way to honor our veterans that have been plagued by PTSD and other mental illnesses. The event isn’t only about veterans, though: it is about educating the community about all kinds of mental illnesses. Jody Shultz, the executive director of NAMI BV hopes that attendees will learn a few key things about mental illnesses.
“I want attendees to take away this: mental illnesses are normal,” said Schultz. “One of every two people will have a mental health issue over their life. I want attendees – and the public – to know that NAMI is working very hard to end stigma around mental illnesses, provide quality education programs to the public and bring support our peers and our families through all the stages of mental health.”
Jody got involved with NAMI because she experienced first hand the harm that mental illness stigma can cause.
“I got involved as a mom whose son was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but as he grew up I thought he was just a bad kid… I got involved because if I only knew now what I knew then my son may have had a better outcome,” Schultz said. “He didn’t ask to have mental illness any more than someone asks to have a physical illness. But the ugly stigma surrounding being judged as ‘crazy’ kept him from coming to me with his symptoms. That has to change.”
And indeed, the organization is working very hard to change just that. They raise money to be able to provide free and vital programs that support those suffering with mental illnesses. Without these programs, many sufferers would go unnoticed.
An organization with such a powerful purpose requires strong leadership. The men and women who volunteer for NAMI BV give so much of their time to ensure the recovery of people struggling right here in Brazos Valley. Overstreet shared his inspirations for his volunteer work.
“All of my friends and family inspire me through their personal stories of wellness, crisis and recovery,” Overstreet said. “My personal heroes like Marsha Linehan, Brian Cuban, Jayson Floyd and Tyler Grey have overcome mental illnesses to achieve wellness. I am equally inspired by family, friends and the heroes whose fight ended with their passing, along with the 22 American Veterans we lose every day to suicide in the United States.”
NAMI is always looking for help, no matter what form it comes in. We asked Schultz for the best ways for members of the Brazos Valley Community to support the NAMI cause.
“As a nonprofit, we depend on the community we serve,” Schultz said. “Anyone can make a difference to our community’s mental health by volunteering, helping NAMI spread the message of hope and health, or by making a donation. Memberships begin at only $35 and can be made via phone at 979-774-4713 or on our website, www.namibv.org.”
A generous donor will match every penny donated to NAMI. Head to the Greenbranch in Bryan this Thursday at 6pm to learn more about this inspiring organization, their members, and their cause.