By Ricky O'Bannon
STILLWATER, Okla. —
In the not so distant past, mentally ill people were resigned to the same fate as violent felons. Even today when treatments have advanced tenfold, social stigmas follow words like “bi-polar syndrome” or “schizophrenia.”
On Tuesday, George Hedrick and Sandrel Jones-Webster of the National Alliance on Mental Illness local chapter will try to break those negative connotations with a candlelight vigil.
The event, known as the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding Interfaith Candlelight Vigil, is part of a nationwide week devoted to mental illness awareness.
“It’s all about reducing the stigma for people with mental illness,” Jones-Webster said.
Mental illness is a brain disease similar to diseases that affect the body like cancer or diabetes, she said.
“National Alliance on Mental Illness is an advocacy organization that offers support groups for those who have a family member that suffers from a mental illness,” Hedrick said.
He said the organization started in 1979 and provides education on the biology of brain diseases, teaches individuals how to speak to a mentally ill relative and has been instrumental in lobbying for better legal treatment of mentally ill people.
Hedrick said he invites anyone who is interested to come, and anyone affected by mental illness can find more information at nami.org.
Tuesday’s vigil is at 6:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 524 S. Duncan St. The event will include proclamations from the Oklahoma governor and Stillwater mayor, music and vignettes that tell the stories of mentally ill individuals. The vigil will be presided over by the Rev. Gordon Edwards.