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Beginning the conversation on mental illness

By Gayle Guynup
Social editor

Updated Nov 2, 2017 at 5:05 PM

Every year, nearly 42.5 million American adults — that is one in five of all Americans — suffer from some form of mental illness, everything from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia. In our community alone, more than 60,000 people live with some form of mental illness.

Yet despite those alarming numbers, mental illness remains shrouded in mystery. We don’t understand it, we do fear those who suffer from it and, as a society, we don’t talk about it.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) is trying to change all that. More than 380 guests came out to Sarasota Architectural Salvage for “Out of the Blue,” the organization’s first fundraising event.

On hand was Sarasota Chapter president Pat Mahoney, who explained that NAMI’s goal is to supply badly needed support for people living with mental illness and their caregivers. “We have to break down the stigma associated with this disease,” she said.

Guests were welcomed by emcee Pam McCurdy, and enjoyed music by Rallo Pucci along with a bountiful buffet provided by Simply Gourmet, with a variety of desserts provided by Nellie’s Deli, Five-O Donut Company, Der Dutchman and cupcakes made by Annie Sutherland.

They could also peruse and bid on a large silent auction, or take part in a raffle knowing that any monies raised during the evening would be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Green Family Foundation.

Speaking, and sharing her own battle with schizophrenia was Robin Snuttjer. Though it was very difficult to hear her through all the noise, her story was a moving one as she has moved on from what she describes as “a place of hopelessness” to be a facilitator for the NAMI Connection Support Group, where she assists her peers in dealing with their own traumas, helping them to realize they are not alone. Also speaking were Jamie Barrett and Pam McCurdy, whose own daughter has battled bipolar disease for years.

Event chair Doreen Sutherland said the problem really starts with education, and with getting people not to be afraid of those with mental illness. “I really want people to start talking about this,” she said. When receiving the right support and treatment, people with mental illnesses can survive and thrive and play an important part in our community, she said.

Original article with event pictures can be found here.

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