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MHAI celebrates 100 years

Wednesday 8 April, 2009

I attended the Gold Bell Gala hosted by MHAI-Mental Health America of Illinois.  If you know me well, you might know that I have a deep interest in mental health issues & this is just 1 way for me to support the cause.  MHAI’s predecessor, the Illinois Society for Mental Hygiene was founded in 1909 by Jane Addams & others to improve the condition of the insane, among other things. Over 50 years ago the national association MHA gathered all the shackles, chains, & handcuffs they could find which had been used to “treat” mental patients, melted them down, & recast the metal in the form of a 300 lb. bell which resides @ the national HQ.

ABC 7 anchor/reporter Kevin Roy MC’ed.  His mother took her own life a number of years ago & Kevin won a Best News Series Emmy in 2001 for “A Son of Suicide.”  Here’s a link to his video.  Roy also worked with Rosalyn Carter, Jimmy’s wife, on a Mental Health Journalism series on suicide & its prevention.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield director Raymond McCaskey was honored for his support of mental health care initiatives & reform such as a mental health summit & encouraged insurance carriers to provide coverage for mental health care issues.

Lobbyist Dick Lockhart was honored for advocating funding to separate children’s from adult care.  Contrary to popular rumor, he claims to never have dated Jane Addams.

About 200 guests attended & perused both silent- as well as live-auction items which raised a substantial sum for MHAI.

My take-unfortunately mental health is not afforded the same respect as physical health, although the 2 are inextricably linked.  Insurance companies don’t pay for many mental health services, & consequently many more suffer from mental illnesses than really should.  Closing a number of mental health facilities in Illinois doesn’t help.  Mental health sufferers are portrayed badly in the movies as well.  “Slingblade” & “As Good as it get”s come to mind.  Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal of a murderer reinforces the news media’s supposition that if someone down & out hurts someone else, they must be mentally ill.  That always seems to be their 1st inclination.  My experience is that mental illness leads to more meekness than violence.  The media really creates the sensationalism.  Jack Nicholson’s character was lauded as a comic hero in “As Good as it gets,” but he was actually a sick obsessive-compulsive guy.   I don’t consider his illness a laughing matter.

Support MHAI with either a financial donation or contribute your time.  In these days of budget cuts & dwindling resources, they can use the help.

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