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May 04, 2007
The opening event to a month-long campaign promoting mental health awareness was met with resounding enthusiasm by more than 200 people at Anoka-Ramsey Community College (ARCC) Coon Rapids Campus Performing Arts Center, May 2. Attendees were met with refreshments, an animated speaker and the chance to view the photo-text display "Nothing to Hide: Mental Illness in the Family."
Nationally known speaker, Peter Feigal addresses more than 200 people at a mental health awareness event Nationally known speaker, Peter Feigal addresses more than 200 people at a mental health awareness event May 2 at the Anoka-Ramsey Community College Coon Rapids Performing Arts Center. Feigal's appearance kicked-off a month-long mental health awareness campaign that includes "Nothing to Hide: Mental Illness in the Family," a nationally acclaimed photo-text exhibit that is touring Anoka County in May.

"This effort presented a wonderful opportunity to educate and support individuals and families who have been touched by mental illness," says ARCC Academic Support Center Director, Jan Pomeroy, who initiated ARCC involvement in the collaboration. "Mental illness is a community issue so it only makes sense we approach it as a community."

The opening event, which featured nationally known speaker Peter Feigal, as well as the month-long tour of the photo-text display was the result of a collaboration between Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services, Mental Wellness Campaign for Anoka County, ARCC and Mercy and Unity Hospitals. The group has made their message clear: mental health is as important as physical health.

Part of the draw to the event was Feigal, who spoke about living with clinical depression for 30 years and living with multiple sclerosis for 17 years. He told multiple stories about the pain and frustration of living with depression, a disease often misunderstood. He also spoke about his multiple sclerosis, but concluded if he had to choose between his two diseases, he would prefer the multiple sclerosis because it is more socially acceptable.

"There is obviously a need to create a greater awareness of mental health," says ARCC Dean of Educational Service, Dr. Mary Raeker-Rebek, who served on the organizing committee. "I am so glad that Anoka-Ramsey Community College was able to be part of this collaboration-the collective effort is a great way to reach a larger audience. We are already beginning to plan for next year's event."

While the opening event is over, the public can still view the photo-text exhibit, "Nothing to Hide: Mental Illness in the Family," throughout the month of May at most of the following locations:

  • May 5-6: Northtown Shopping Mall, Blaine and Salem Baptist Church, New Brighton;
  • May 7-11: *Medtronic, Fridley;
  • May 12-13: Christ the King Lutheran, New Brighton and *Community United Methodist, Columbia Height;
  • May 14-18: *Connexus Energy and Blaine City Center, Blaine;
  • May 19-20: Church of Epiphany, Coon Rapids and *First Congregational UCC, Anoka;
  • May 21-25: Mercy Hospital, Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital, Fridley;
  • May 26-27: Oak Haven Church, Ham Lake;
  • May 29-31: Anoka Government Center, Anoka and Blaine Government Center, Blaine

(* Not open for public viewing)

More About Mental Health in Anoka County and Beyond
In 2005-2006, the Mental Wellness Campaign for Anoka County hired Wilder Research to conduct a mental health community survey of Anoka County residents. Survey highlights included:

  • Approximately 37% of respondents had a family member with a mental illness;
  • More than nine out of 10 respondents said mental health is as important as physical health; and
  • Most respondents said that society needs to be more accepting of people with mental illness.

According to research by Mental Health America (formerly National Mental Health Association), one in every five Americans experiences a mental disorder in any given year, but only half seek treatment. That would equal approximately 64,000 people in Anoka County. Further, they have found:

  • Depression and anxiety disorders-the most prevalent mental illnesses-are each estimated to affect more than 19 million people every year.
  • According to the historic U.S. Surgeon General's report on mental health, major depressive disorders account for about 20 to 35 percent of all deaths by suicide.
  • Up to half of all patients seen every day by primary care providers suffer from a mental illness, most often depression.
  • Currently, clinical depression is one of America's most costly medical illnesses, resulting in economic losses due to absenteeism from work, lost productivity and direct treatment costs.
  • By 2020, the World Health Organization estimates that depression will be the second leading cause of premature death or disability worldwide.

More about Nothing to Hide: Mental Illness in the Family, a Photo-Text Exhibit
"Nothing to Hide: Mental Illness in the Family," funded in part by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is a museum-quality, photo-text, traveling exhibit featuring photographs and interviews with families whose lives are affected by mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, major depression and anxiety disorders. The accounts depict strength, courage, integrity and accomplishment and help dispel harmful stereotypes, myths and misconceptions about mental illness.

The exhibit has received rave reviews and media attention. The companion book, "Nothing to Hide," won a prestigious Ken Johnson from NAMI-New York City Metro.

"This wonderful book will touch the heart of anyone who has been close to mental illness. It is a book that everyone should read," says Lesley Stahl, co-editor of 60 Minutes, the television news program.

ABOUT ANOKA COUNTY COMMUNITY HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES
The Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services Department protects and promotes the health and safety of the community. They periodically survey residents to determine the most pressing public health needs. In the most recent survey, one of the top concerns was the need for adequate and available prevention, diagnostic and early intervention services for mental health issues for all ages, with a special focus on children and adolescents.

ABOUT ANOKA-RAMSEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Anoka-Ramsey Community College, with campuses in Cambridge and Coon Rapids, has been a leading provider of higher education and training in East Central Minnesota since 1978 and the north suburban area of Minneapolis/St. Paul since 1965. Annually, the college serves more than 9,700 learners of all ages as they pursue associate degrees that transfer as the first two years of a bachelor's degree, or certificate programs that lead immediately to rewarding careers. ARCC is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.

ABOUT THE MENTAL WELLNESS CAMPAIGN FOR ANOKA COUNTY
The Mental Wellness Campaign for Anoka County is a volunteer group of consumers, family members, human services providers, and community leaders. They believe mental health is as important as physical health. Their goal is to erase stigma around mental illnesses and remove barriers to people accessing services.

ABOUT MERCY & UNITY HOSPITALS
Mercy & Unity Hospitals, located in Coon Rapids and Fridley, are non-profit hospitals that serve the northern Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. The hospitals provided care to more than 286,000 people in 2005. Mercy & Unity respond to a wide range of health needs with specialty services including bariatric weight loss surgery, behavioral health services, cancer care, heart and vascular services, orthopedics and neurosciences and women's and children's services. The hospitals, which are part of Allina Hospitals & Clinics, are located on the Internet at www.mercyunity.com.