Mental illness touches most Oklahoma families. Maybe a relative or friend suffers from severe depression or psychosis. Maybe you have an anxiety disorder.
About one in four American adults will experience a mental health disorder in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. That's about 57.7 million people.
Granted, not all disorders are severe. Their complications are, though. NAMI estimates the nationwide economic cost, mainly due to lost productivity, is around $79 billion annually.
National Mental Illness Awareness Week begins Sunday and continues through Oct. 13. NAMI Oklahoma has partnered with HeartLine and the Mental Health Association of Central Oklahoma, among other agencies, to present events throughout the week, including a prayer breakfast and a candlelight vigil.
Partner agencies include the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, Oklahoma Citizen Advocates for Recovery and Treatment Association, Cutting Edge Research and the Oklahoma Mental Health Consumer Council.
The awareness week was established by Congress in 1990, said Gail Israel, development coordinator for NAMI Oklahoma.
“NAMI has embraced it,” Israel said. “It occurs every year, but Oklahoma is being louder about it this year. Other NAMI affiliates in other states are doing the same.”
And with good reason. On average, Israel wrote in a news release, people who have serious mental illnesses die 25 years earlier than the rest of the population. In part, it's because less than a third of adults and less than half of children with diagnosed mental illnesses receive treatment.
Many don't get help for fear of the stigma associated with mental illness. Awareness week is a good time to remind people that disorders are common and that most can be treated effectively.
A vigil will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Edmond's Hafer Park, near 9th Street and Bryant.
David Gordon, NAMI Oklahoma's executive director, and Terri White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, will speak at the vigil.
Music will be provided by Moe Williams, Shealynn Morefield and Miss Brown to You. A University of Central Oklahoma student will read the names of those lost to mental illness.
“We'll talk about hope and awareness,” Israel said.
UCO musicians will continue to play for about 20 minutes after the official end of the vigil, allowing time for reflection and conversation in the park.
There is no cost to attend the vigil.
Day of prayer
An Interfaith Day of Prayer for mental illness will begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 9 at the state Capitol.
The two-hour gathering features representatives of various religions. Speakers include Rabbi Vered Harris; Pastor Wayne Lawson; Rev. George Young of the Edmond Interfaith Alliance; and Adam Soltani, a member of the local Muslim community.
The event is free.
The Champions for Change fundraising luncheon will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 11 at The Greens Country Club, 13100 Green Valley Dr.
Dr. R. Murali Krishna, Carol and Jim Hetherington and John Kennedy will be honored for their efforts to help the mentally ill.
Krishna, who will be introduced by Stanley Hupfeld, is the president and chief operating officer of Integris Mental Health and the James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit. He is the founder of the R. Murali Krishna Family “Eliminate the Stigma” award.
The Hetheringtons are founding members of NAMI Oklahoma City Metro and are “tireless mental health advocates,” Israel said. They will be introduced by Oklahoma City police Capt. Robert Nash, who is involved with the department's Crisis Intervention Team — a group of officers specially trained to help the mentally ill.
Kennedy will be introduced by former lieutenant governor Jari Askins. Kennedy, of Irish Realty, is a generous supporter of NAMI Oklahoma's annual fundraising walk, Israel said.
Tickets to the luncheon are $65 per person.
For more information or to buy tickets, call 230-1900.
A question and answer session will be from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Saint Anthony RAPP Foundation Conference Center on the fourth floor of Saints Medical Plaza, 535 NW 9.
“Ask the Doctor” experts include psychiatrists, therapists, art therapists, an attorney and others. They will answer your questions about all aspects of mental illness and recovery.
People who have diagnosed mental illnesses and their loved ones particularly are encouraged to attend the free session.