Pictured back row, from left: Vernita Childs, Willie Lester and Kevin Buckley. Front row: Krista Swinton, Don Harris, Mayor Richard Bentley and Bill Pohl.

U-R staff
The Union-Recorder

The NAMI Oconee chapter and mental health advocates throughout the country will designate the first full week in October to raising awareness on mental health issues.

Mayor Richard Bentley signed a local proclamation at City Hall Tuesday in recognition of Oct. 3-9 as Mental Illness Awareness Week.

The NAMI Oconee chapter is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI’s mission is to provide support and advocate for those with mental health issues and provide valuable education for individuals who experience and live with the effects of a severe mental illness or a brain disorder.

Willie Lester, the former president of the NAMI chapter in Milledgeville, was present for the annual proclamation signing.

“There is a need in this community for mental health services. We appreciate NAMI working with these citizens. They are able to provide a better quality of life to those who are affected by their mental health.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness was established in 1979. Education is a feature that NAMI prides itself on. By educating those who have a mental illness and those who come in contact with mental illness on a regular basis, the stigma can be released and growth can occur.

“People need to get the treatment they require. Half of the people I see at the Oconee Center don’t think that they need treatment, but they do. Educating and providing good facilities can really help that,” Lester said.

In recognition of the week, the NAMI Oconee Chapter has invited a speaker from the Suicide Prevention Action Network to speak at the Kilpatrick Auditorium at Georgia College & State University at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7.     

The local NAMI chapter has been present in Milledgeville since the early 1980s. The organization holds monthly support and business meetings and distributes educational magazines and pamphlets regarding anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

Don Harris is the current president of NAMI Oconee.

“At Christmas, we hold a Christmas dinner for consumers who might otherwise be overlooked during this time of the year. In the spring, we hold a Walkathon to raise funds for the year’s activities, which include a Family and Friends Day in the summer to provide education and support for consumers and their families. The entire organization consists of all-volunteer members who are family members and friends of people who have mental illness, mental health consumers and mental health care professionals,” he said.

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