One of the highlights of the recent NAMI national convention in San Francisco was the appearance of Nathaniel Ayers, the man behind the story of the movie, The Soloist. Nathaniel's moving story helps all of us better understand and work to improve the complex problems related to mental illness and homelessness. Once more we are reminded that in sharing one's story, the ignorance, stereotypes, fear and stigma surrounding mental illness begin to break.
I sat at a table with two women who worked with the homeless in downtown Los Angeles. They related to me how many of the other homeless persons who appeared in the movie also experienced a profound change when they saw themselves on the screen in this movie. When one of the women was able to look at what her life had become, she said that the person on the screen is not who she is. It is not who God intended for her to be. She transformed her life by getting off drugs and off the street and she continues to move towards recovery.
We can all find ways to build bridges of understanding that will lead to healing, recovery and transformation. Mental Illness Awareness Week, the first week in October, provides a wonderful opportunity to partner with community groups in your area to raise awareness about mental illness. Tuesday, October 6 has been designated as The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Awareness Recovery and Understanding. Resources including bulletin inserts, prayers, liturgies and an interfaith candle lighting service are available on the NAMI FaithNet Web site. Further resources in English and Spanish are available on the Home Page of Mental Health Ministries, www.MentalHealthMinistries.net.
We need to work together to find ways to raise awareness about mental illness whether it be during Mental Illness Awareness Week or any time during the year. Michael Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of NAMI, wrote, "The Soloist is a symphony, providing an honest look at mental illness, human dignity and the need for social connection." We are all part of this symphony. Play on!
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