Traverse City Nonprofit Gets Help, Gives Help On World Mental Health Day

world mental health day is recognized on October 10 each year, and a local mental health organization says it’s a good time to highlight the need in the community – and let people know they’re not alone.

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is “Making mental health and well-being a global priority”. Rick Coates says, “Mental illness has been a challenge in our society and it’s because of the stigma that surrounds it.

In recent years, there has been an effort to talk more about mental health – in an effort to end this stigma. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a chapter in northern Michigan. Coates is the executive director of the Grand Traverse Chapter. “Anything we can do to end the stigma – and as someone who suffers from mental illness myself and has suffered from it for a very long time. The most liberating thing in my life is when I shared my story and ended the stigma for myself.

NAMI reports that millions of people in the United States are affected by mental illness, including 1 in 5 adults and almost as many children. Jessie Perez is a NAMI navigator. “I think we all know someone who has a mental health problem or have experienced it ourselves. And it can be a very overwhelming, traumatic and difficult time for someone who might not have the courage to speak up. Or maybe they were treated badly when they spoke,” she says. “If something is wrong, always reach out.”

For a non-profit organization, awareness makes a big difference. But so are donations. A local casino helps brighten the mood for NAMI. Tracy Kurtz of Grand Traverse Resort & Casinos Public Relations says, “World Mental Health Day is so important to this community and around the world. I think sometimes there is a stigma attached to it. It’s a medical condition and we have to look at it that way.

Casino cash in NamiThat’s why Turtle Creek and Leelanau Sands Casinos are targeting a donation to NAMI as part of Cash In on Kindness – where casino patrons can donate a portion of their winnings to a worthy cause. Kurtz says, “I think it’s important to have the support, the education, the advocacy, whatever NAMI does, for all the people who live here.” Coates is very grateful. “It’s huge for us, we’ve been a very small organization based here in northern Michigan.”

Over $4,000 will help NAMI in its efforts. Perez says, “I can help advocate for them in the community, connect them with therapy, maybe hospital treatment. I love helping them build what I call their mental health “toolbox”. Make sure they have places to go, people to talk to. Nami's Mental Health Aid

NAMI says mental health issues affect all age groups, from school-aged children to the elderly. And now they’re working on a special program called “Homefront,” which will provide mental health resources to local veterans. They plan to unveil this program after the first of the year. “Whatever your struggles, there is always hope. Do not abandon. There’s always something out there that can help you out,” Coates says. “If you have a family member, loved one or friend, or if it’s yourself and you’re struggling with mental illness, or know someone, encourage them to get assistance. And you will find that it will make a huge difference in your life.

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