Billy Graham's 35,000 Souls: One in Five Will Experience Mental Illness

"Be A Neighbor To The Person Next To You…Whether Their Color Is Dark Or It Is Light, We Are To Love Each Other And Work Together." - Reverend Billy Graham

Jun 28 2002

Cincinnati, OH - Reverend Billy Graham drew 35,000 people to this city's Paul Brown Stadium last night. Statistically, according to the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI), which is holding its own national convention, "Building Communities of Hope" in Cincinnati this week:

  • Twenty percent of those who responded to the evangelist's message-7,000-will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lifetimes.
  • More than 1000 will struggle with bipolar disorder (manic depression)
  • Approximately 700 will suffer from schizophrenia, the brain disorder recently depicted in the movie A Beautiful Mind.
  • Up to one third will be victimized by robberies, assaults and rapes. Only a relatively small percent will become violent.
  • More than half of those with schizophrenia-350-will not get treatment. Many will become homeless. Approximately 150 will commit suicide.

"There are people in Cincinnati who feel left behind," Graham said. A few hours before, keynote speakers at the NAMI convention's opening session warned that mental illness is increasing, while services are worsening.

On Friday at 1:00 PM, the chairman of President Bush's newly-appointed New Freedom Commission on Mental Health-Michael Hogan, director of Ohio's Department of Mental Health-and Charles Curie, head of the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will conduct a "listening session"-the first outside Washington, D.C.-on the growing crisis.

In today's Cincinnati Enquirer, columnist Peter Bronson writes about racial bigotry in the Tri-State region. However, prejudice and discrimination-i.e., stigma-also is "the most formidable obstacle to future progress in the arena of mental illness and health…manifested by bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger and/or avoidance," according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Billy Graham got it right. In order to build communities of hope, we need to love each other and work together-and that includes investing in recovery and ensuring that none of the 7,000 people in the stadium last night who will encounter mental illness are ever left behind.