Group tackles mental illness discrimination

Ohio group makes local visit.

Representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio chapter visited Yellow Springs as part of the organization’s first statewide tour to advocate against mental illness discrimination.

The tour began on May 7 and will run through the second week of September, according to Katie Dillon, children and youth outreach coordinator for NAMI Ohio, Katie Dillon.

The NAMImobile will travel across the state and visit more than 100 communities during the tour, Dillon said Tuesday afternoon in Yellow Springs.

“We feel that we can battle discrimination stigma against mental health by getting facts out and raising awareness,” Dillon said.

According to Dillon, NAMI Ohio operates a help line that people with mental illnesses can call anonymously and talk to someone who can then refer the person to a local NAMI affiliate, support group, counseling centers or other services.

She said many of the calls the office receives are related to discrimination.

“We believe there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about mental illnesses … over the past few years, we’ve gotten a lot of calls where people have beliefs about mental illnesses that, based on research, we know are incorrect,” Dillon said.

At each meeting, participants update the group on new events in their lives and spend the majority of the meeting in ‘group work’ sessions. The group members then use their own experiences — called ‘group wisdom’ — to help the person in need.

The Yellow Springs chapter of NAMI sponsors two free support groups, one for people affected by a mental illness and another for families. Family meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Senior Center in Yellow Springs. The group accepts donations.

NAMI started on a national level in 1979 and opened its Ohio chapter in 1982. Local groups followed.

Donna Sorrell, a spokeswoman and facilitator for NAMI Yellow Springs, started the group following the death of Paul Schenck — a Yellow Springs resident who died last July in a shootout with more than 60 police officers. Schneck had a history of stockpiling guns and had a protective order filed against him by the mother of one of his children. The woman said Schneck had “emotional/mental imbalances.”

Sorrell said residents were looking for a support group to talk about their concerns. The two groups that comprise NAMI Yellow Springs officially became a part of NAMI in the spring, Sorrell said.

“It’s not therapy and we don’t talk about meds, necessarily, or advise on any certain doctor,” Sorrell said. “We are simply there so that you can have a place to go talk about what’s bothering you and be accepted and respected while you do it.”

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