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Mental Illness Awareness Week Marked in Michigan

This year's "Great Michigan Read" selection helps open a difficult conversation about mental illness and care in Michigan. Photo courtesy of NAMI.
This year's "Great Michigan Read" selection helps open a difficult conversation about mental illness and care in Michigan. Photo courtesy of NAMI.
October 11, 2013

LANSING, Mich. – Erasing the stigma and navigating the mental health care system were on the agenda this week at a special event in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

The event, coordinated by the Lansing chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, featured Pete Earley, a former Washington Post reporter and the father of a son with bipolar disorder.

Earley spent years researching mental health services and the criminal justice system.

An estimated one in four Americans suffers from some form of mental illness, but despite those numbers, Margaret Keeler, president of NAMI Lansing, says it is a conversation many shy away from.

"It's so stigmatized, people don't like to talk about it,” she says. “It's a very uncomfortable issue, and it's not well funded and people have difficulty finding access to care."

Keeler says this year's Great Michigan Read statewide book discussion also brings attention to mental health issues with the selection of "Annie's Ghosts" by Michigan native Steve Luxenberg, a book about the frequent institutionalization of the mentally ill in the mid 20th century.

Keeler says that in Michigan today, incarceration has replaced the institutionalization described in "Annie's Ghosts."

It's estimated that four times as many people with mental illnesses in the state are behind bars than are in hospitals.

Keeler adds groups such as NAMI Lansing are working to fight that trend.

"We bring to light the fact that there are organizations and agencies that are interested in improving mental health care," she stresses.

NAMI Lansing offers year-round support groups, advocacy and educational opportunities for all those affected by mental illness.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI