By SARA ARTHURS
The National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio brought its NAMImobile to Findlay Tuesday as part of a statewide tour to raise awareness and end discrimination against people with mental illness.
The NAMImobile is a 31-foot recreational vehicle painted with information about mental illness, a “mobile billboard” in the words of Katie Dillon, media specialist and outreach coordinator with NAMI Ohio.
The NAMImobile tour began in early May and there are plans to visit more than 100 communities in all 88 counties, ending in August. It’s part of the Mental Illness-No Discrimination Movement, a collaboration of Ohio agencies, organizations and individuals which started in January and aims to raise awareness of mental illness issues.
Dillon said the tour is getting “great responses” including people coming to talk about their own struggles with mental illness. Other visitors didn’t know anything about mental illness, and NAMI staff were able to educate them.
One in four adults in the U.S., and approximately 2.9 million Ohioans, experience a mental health disorder in a given year. But NAMI Ohio reports that discrimination or fear of discrimination can cause shame and make someone less likely to seek treatment for their illness, and lack of treatment can result in hospitalization, loss of employment, court involvement, homelessness or death.
Dillon said there are many myths and misconceptions, such as that someone with a mental illness is violent. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to become victims of violence than to commit violence themselves, she said.
Mental illness can also lead to death from suicide or from preventable diseases, Dillon said. Mental illness itself is not preventable but it is treatable and people who are being treated can lead healthy lives.
“Mental illness does not need to be stigmatized” as it is no different than any other illness, said Michelle Huff, executive director of NAMI of Hancock County, who visited the bus during its stop.
NAMI Ohio is comprised of thousands of individuals with mental illness, family members, advocates and professionals working together to ensure that Ohioans with mental illness and their loved ones receive the treatment and support they need.
NAMI Ohio, headquartered in Columbus, has 50 affiliates throughout the state, including NAMI of Hancock County. In terms of fundraising and donations, Ohio is the largest of NAMI’s state affiliates.
NAMI Ohio advocates with the state Legislature. A current bill is SB 43, which would allow for assisted outpatient treatment for people deemed a harm to themselves or others.
Huff said there are still myths and stereotypes to counter but she sees awareness growing locally. The recent NAMI Walk, a fundraiser of the Hancock County affiliate, saw a significant increase in both the number of walkers and the amount raised.
Anyone in need of mental health or recovery services is advised to call NAMI of Hancock County at 419-957-9423.
Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs