May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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In Vermont approximately 23,000 adults and 6,000 youth and teenagers face serious mental illness. One in 17 adults lives with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. In 2013, President Obama proclaimed May as National Mental Health Awareness Month and now each May the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont joins the nation in bringing the issue of mental health to the forefront. Each year we fight to end stigma, provide support, and educate the public on mental illness. Each year, the movement grows stronger. For May 2016, events around the state will provide Vermont's communities with information and support on mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Month is a time for Vermonters to become informed about mental illness, which affects one in five Vermonters. NAMI Vermont's advocacy goal is to ensure youth and adults living with mental illness receive the right care at the right time and in the right place to experience lives of resiliency, recovery and inclusion. Most people living with mental illness can lead fulfilling, productive lives, but only if they have access to treatment. We want to share the message that there is hope and recovery is possible.

NAMI Vermont offers free support groups and mental health education in communities all over the state. The NAMI Family Support is a monthly meeting for family members, partners and friends of individuals living with a mental illness and meets on the first Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 880 Western Ave., in West Brattleboro.

The NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group is a weekly peer-led support group for people living with a mental health condition, and meets every Tuesday from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the United Counseling Service CRT Center, 316 Dewey St., in Bennington.

NAMI Vermont also offers a free Family-to-Family 12-week course for families, partners, and friends of individuals living with mental illness, and is offered throughout the state in the spring and fall. NAMI Vermont's newest program "In Our Own Voice" is a public education presentation in which peers share their stories of illness and their road to recovery. To request an "In Our Own Voice" presentation in your community or to learn more about NAMI Vermont's programs, visit namivt.org/programs.

In addition to these programs, NAMI Vermont's annual Pathways to Wellness Conference will take place at Lake Morey Resort on Tuesday, May 17. Registration is open and scholarships are available for this event featuring keynote addresses from medical journalist Robert Whitaker, whose books Anatomy of an Epidemic and Mad in America are key works of reflection on the nation's mental health system of care; as well as Barbara Mainguy, a Creative Arts Therapist with a background in working with people with diagnoses that include severe mental illnesses and psychosis.

One in five Americans will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Join NAMI Vermont during Mental Health Awareness month to join the movement to build awareness of mental illness and end stigma. For more information about mental health conditions and NAMI Vermont's resources for education, advocacy and support, feel free to visit www.namivt.org or contact us at 802-876-7949.

NAMI Vermont is the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. Through the dedicated efforts of grassroots leaders, NAMI focuses on three cornerstones of activity: Support, Education, and Advocacy.

Laurie Emerson is the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont. To contact her, email lemerson@namivt.org.


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