The Clermont County Mental Health Alliance is once again celebrating hope for those suffering and living with mental illness and recognizing those heroes who have made a positive impact in the lives of those challenged by mental illness.
The powerful and dedicated alliance, which was formed last year and is comprised of 17 local mental health organizations, is currently coordinating many different events planned for a week in May in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month.
The events are all designed to draw much-needed attention to mental health issues and help fight the on-going, antiquated stigma of mental illness through education and awareness.
The week of celebration begins the evening of May 24 with a ‘Lifesaver Dinner’ sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an not-for-profit organization dedicated to the understanding and prevention of suicide through research and education.
The Hope and Heroes Awards Luncheon will take place the following day.
The luncheon will honor three persons whose recovery process has inspired 'hope' to others on the difficult road to recovery; the luncheon will also honor 12 community advocates, or 'heroes,' who have served as role models in the mental health community.
This year, the alliance has joined forces with suicide and mental illness survivor Paul Jones.
Jones, a veteran stand-up comedian and published writer, was diagnosed with bipolar one disorder at the age of 36. His own experience with suicide inspired him to write and publish his suicide letter entitled "Dear World: A Suicide Letter."
Pulling himself out of those dark depths of suicidal despair, Jones made a life-altering decision to join with the local mental health community in their noble mission to eradicate the stigma attached to those suffering from and living with mental health issues.
The Hope and Heroes Awards Luncheon kicks off his national "Stop the Stigma Tour."
"I just want to stop people from killing themselves," he said. "I want my story to inspire others. I am fighting stigma one mind at a time. I want my speaking tour to get people to stop thinking that they are crazy."
He very pointedly believes that "mental illness does not make you crazy, but that thinking it does."
There are other events planned as well.
On May 25, writer and actress Anne Randolph will perform her one-woman, character driven play entitled "Squeezebox." This poignant play recalls her experiences living in a women's shelter for the mentally ill.
"Mental illness is treatable," affirms Mercy Hospital Clermont's Department of Behavioral Medicine Program Educator Ann Hoffman-Ruffner. "Every event that we are sponsoring or are involved with is designed to wipe out stigma. Stigma is the number one thing that keeps people from seeking the help that they need. This is the message that we are trying to get across to the community."
Nomination forms (anyone can be nominated) for the Hope and Heroes Awards Luncheon are available online at www.e-mercy.com. and the deadline to nominate is March 9.
The Clermont County Mental Health Alliance includes the AFSP, Child Focus, Clermont Counseling Center, Clermont County Family and Children First, Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, Clermont County Recovery Center, Clermont Senior Services, Council on Aging of SW Ohio, Family Service, Melonridge, Mental Health Association of SWOH, Mercy Hospital Clermont Department of Behavioral Medicine, NAMI, Northland Intervention Center, Inc., The Phoenix Place, Southern Ohio Health Services Network, Summit Behavioral, the YWCA Eastern Area, Clermont County MRDD, and the S.W. Ohio Development Center.