ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 9 Dr. Gariane Gunter, a psychiatrist in South Carolina, recently was crowned Mrs. United States and will dedicate her reign to raising public awareness about mental illness. As part of her education campaign, Gunter is working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 5-11) about her advocacy efforts on the NAMI blog at www.nami.org/blog.
Established by Congress in 1990, Mental Illness Awareness Weeks promotes public education on mental illness, treatment and recovery through local outreach efforts. Gunter is currently teaching NAMI's "Breaking the Silence" curriculum http://www.btslessonplans.org to all fifth grade classes at an elementary school in her hometown. The program is designed to educate students in upper elementary school, middle school and high school about mental illness.
"Much of the stigma associated with mental illness is a fear of the unknown. People don't understand that medication works, that those living with mental illness are our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers," said Gunter. "Teaching our children that mental illness is a physical illness affecting the brain and making them aware of potential signs and symptoms will help replace stigma with compassion and encourage them to reach out for help if they should ever need it."
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. NAMI has more than 1,100 affiliates in communities across the country who engage in advocacy, research, support, and education.
Mental Illness: Facts & Figures:
Mental Illness Awareness Week: www.nami.org/miaw
Mrs. United States Pageant: www.mrsunitedstates.com
NAMI Advocate Feature Profile: