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MIAW 2011: Celebrate Your Way

By Courtney Reyers, NAMI Publications Manager

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), which falls on Oct. 2-8 this year, is a time when communities come together to bring mental illness to the forefront. It's a time for celebration, frank discussion, supporting each other and welcoming new individuals and families into communities where they can find help and hope.

NAMI provides resources on its MIAW website, from an Idea Book to advocacy tools (like a Gubernatorial proclamation and model press releases) that help NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates kick-start their MIAW activities. Themed artwork is also available every year, including a logo, posters and banners.

Many NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates have done great things over the years (you can find many of them cited in the Idea Book), and this year is no exception. Here are three great examples of what people around the country are doing to celebrate MIAW.

NAMI Metro Houston is holding a luncheon on Oct. 6 called "All About Recovery." The luncheon is free, open to all, features a well-rounded panel of guest speakers and is an event that will help educate the Houston community as well as highlight the NAMI programs offered at the State Organization, including NAMI Connection, In Our Own Voice, NAMI Basics, Peer-to-Peer and Family-to-Family.

"The luncheon will focus on various components of recovery—spiritual, family, peer support," NAMI Metro Houston Executive Director Jinneh Dyson said. "We want to empower people and let them know that recovery is different for every individual and you have to find what works for you and your family."

The luncheon will feature a variety of speakers, including a faith-based leader from the African American community, a psychologist who specializes in co-occurring disorders, a professor from the University of Houston, a peer leader and a family representative.

"MIAW memorializes where we've come from—from a time when we didn't even talk about mental illness—to today, where we join together and feel welcomed and free to talk about mental illness," Dyson said.

On Oct. 3, NAMI North Carolina and nearly 18 NAMI Affiliates in North Carolina will partake in its second annual balloon launch. Balloons are provided by NAMI North Carolina, and participants release them at the same time across the state. Local health care providers and NAMI on Campus groups at universities across North Carolina are also involved in the balloon launch. NAMI North Carolina's annual conference, "Growing our Grassroots: Our Garden of Recovery" falls on MIAW week as well.

"MIAW gives us one week where we can really work together as one organization," Jennifer Rothman, NAMI North Carolina Young Families Program Director, said. "We all do great work throughout the year, but this special week inspires us to do it at the same time, putting NAMI in the spotlight like it should be."

NAMI New Hampshire will kick off MIAW with its annual NAMIWalk on Oct. 2 in Concord, N.H. They have activities all week long as well, including an open house at New Hampshire Hospital, complete with exhibits and activities showing the advancements in treatment of mental health care and a hospital tour, a conference for educators and a slew of IOOV presentations going on throughout the week at local universities and other community hubs.

NAMI New Hampshire launches the Emotional Literacy Program during MIAW, and anticipates 30 elementary schools from across the state to participate. In past years nearly 500 students in grades 1-5 have taken part in this activity. “This year the selected book is Brandon and the Bipolar Bear,” Claudia Ferber, Director of Child and Family Programs at NAMI New Hampshire said. “This program helps young kids learn about mental illness, and instill language, facts and positive help-seeking behaviors.”

This NAMI State Organization is also supporting faith communities around New Hampshire on the National Day of Prayer (Tuesday, Oct. 5), asking them to recite the MIAW prayer and explore how their faith communities can reach out to, provide support and “welcome” into their faith community individuals and families living with mental illness in the upcoming year.

"For me, MIAW kicks off the year," Claudia said. "It is an opportunity for the community to see the face of mental illness and to understand that recovery is possible, and that we all need to be a part of an individual's recovery. MIAW is a time to reach out to the public in a very general way and look at recovery from a very human perspective."

For ideas on how you can participate in Mental Illness Awareness Week, visit NAMI's MIAW web section.

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