Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct. 6-12, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and participants across the country are raising awareness of mental illness and dispelling myths.

Since 1990, when Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week, advocates have worked together to sponsor activities, large and small, to educate the public about mental illness.

One in five adults experience mental illness every year, and 50% of chronic mental illness begins by age 14. Although many people today understand that mental illness is a medical condition, there are too many myths surrounding mental health conditions. And with these myths comes stigma, misunderstanding and discrimination. As a leading voice, NAMI is helping break down myths and increase understanding with this year's Mental Illness Awareness Week campaign.

NAMI believes that mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round but highlighting them during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice. This year, NAMI is calling on everyone to become informed and dispel the harmful myths surrounding mental illness and increase acceptance in communities.

The public is invited to participate in a candlelight service, the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding, on Thursday, Oct. 10, from 7 to 8 p.m. at Crosspointe Christian Centre, 2681 Underwood Street in Dalton. Judge Scott Minter of the Conasauga Mental Health Court will speak on how the court helps people with mental illness in their recovery journey.

"Every year during Mental Illness Awareness Week, we educate the public, eliminate stigma and advocate for better access to mental health care. And each year, our movement grows stronger," said Jim Moore, president of NAMI Rome. "We are calling on everyone to join NAMI and raise awareness by sharing the WhyCare? Campaign and dispel harmful myths. Care is a simple word, but a powerful way to change lives for people affected by mental illness."

There are many ways to get involved with NAMI and show you care by sharing stories about how you care for others, how support or care you received has impacted your journey, or what it means to have access to treatment and quality care.

NAMI offers information about mental illness conditions, symptoms and treatment at www.nami.org or through the HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264). Learn more about Mental Illness Awareness Week at www.nami.org/miaw.

NAMI Rome is mentoring people in Whitfield County with the goal of starting a local affiliate. The first step was to offer a support group. Currently, adults who have a friend or loved one with a mental illness are invited to attend the family support group, held on the second and fourth Thursdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Mack Gaston Community Center, 218 N. Fredrick St. in Dalton. The next step is to offer a support group for adults living with a mental illness. NAMI Rome is looking for adults who would be willing to be trained to facilitate the group. If you would like more information, contact NAMI Rome at (706) 506-5010.

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