Mental Health Awareness Month has begun

Posted at 10:03 PM, May 04, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY -- About one in four people suffer from some form of mental illness, and supporters are working to raise awareness and offer help during Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental Health Awareness Month is in May, and some people took the opportunity to share their stories.

Tonya Edvalson’s son is 10 years old, and Edvalson said he deals with mental health issues.

"My son has anxiety, depression and he's been diagnosed with Asperger's disorder," she said. “He definitely is the center of attention. He's 10 years old right now, and we've focused a lot of our attention the last four years on finding the right doctors, dealing with meltdowns and rescheduling a lot of family events."

The Utah Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers support and answers to those who need it.

"When we figured out that Eric was having problems in kindergarten, NAMI was one of the first places we found for help," Edvalson said. "There's support groups that we have available, and then we could find other families going through the same thing, and we can realize we're not by ourselves."

Executive director Rebecca Glathar, NAMI Utah, said they are there to help.

"We provide free education classes and support groups to individuals living with mental illness to their families and to the community," she said.

The employees at NAMI understand what those who come to see them are going through. Each of them either has a mental illness or has a family member who suffers from mental illness.

Erin Akers said the empathy that creates is very important.

"That advocacy has given me a lot of power and a lot of strength to move on and deal with my own struggles,” she said. “I think, you know what, I'm setting a good example for these teens, and they have somebody to look up to, and if I start slipping, you know, what are they gonna do?”

Akers suffers from depression, and she said she came to NAMI after years of struggle and self-harm. She said people shouldn’t hesitate to get help.

"Don't be scared, and don't be embarrassed to get that help you need,” she said. “There are people who can help.”

Glathar said awareness is their first priority.

"Our biggest effort during the month is to really get the word out that mental health is something that people should be talking about,” she said.

She said she understands that it’s not a subject most people are eager to discuss though.

"When you have someone in your family living with schizophrenia or bipolar, or has struggled with a suicide attempt: People don't tend to come over and bring you a casserole and say, ‘What can I do?’"

She said that’s something they’d like to change.

"What we want to do is bring mental illness to the forefront of everyone’s conversation,” she said. “We know statistically a lot of people are dealing with mental health issues, but at the same time no one talks about it."

NAMI will be hosting events throughout the month of May. Click here for more information about events, classes, support groups and more.