Mental Illness Awareness Week
By Debra B. Johnson, Executive Director, St. Clair County Community Mental Health

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), established by Congress in 1990, is an opportunity to educate, increase awareness, and combat discrimination associated with mental
illness. Discrimination against individuals with mental illness is usually based on the mistaken assumptions that they are dangerous and that their mental illness is the result of a weak or flawed character. When it occurs it can impact how people with mental illness are treated by landlords, employers, the criminal justice system, and health providers. It also creates emotional and social barriers between people with mental illness and their community, leading many people to delay treatment. This creates serious challenges for an individual with mental illness because the longer an individual delays treatment the harder it is to achieve recovery. We all have a responsibility to help reduce discrimination associated with mental illness. This begins with the person with a mental illness. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, seek treatment immediately. If you are in treatment and comfortable sharing your story, talk about your recovery with family and friends. If you have a friend or family member with a mental illness take the time to learn about their mental illness. And while it is often difficult for many of us to do, we all need to speak up and challenge others when they make negative comments about people with mental illness or actively discriminate against them, whether it be in housing, employment, or participation in community activities. The most important thing you can do is to treat individuals with mental illness with respect and dignity and insist that everyone else do so as well.

This year MIAW is from October 6th through October 12th. In recognition of MIAW on
Tuesday, October 8th, from 3:30 to 4:30pm at our main office at 3111 Electric Avenue in Port Huron, St. Clair County Community Mental Health (CMH) will host our twelfth annual Celebration of Recovery ceremony. This ceremony recognizes individuals who receive CMH
services for their extraordinary commitment to the recovery spirit. The Celebration of Recovery is free of charge and open to the public.

In conjunction with the St. Clair County Suicide Prevention Committee we are also
sponsoring a screening of the award winning film “Coming Up for Air” on Wednesday, October 9 th at Krafft 8 Cinema in Port Huron. “Coming Up for Air” is a family drama about the pressures put on teenagers to succeed and the need to seek mental health treatment. A panel discussion will begin at 5pm and the movie begins at 6:30pm. Tickets are only $5 and include a small popcorn and drink. To reserve tickets or for more information please contact Jill Vandenabeele at 810-966-3639 or

While we welcome opportunities during MIAW to fight stigma, at CMH our anti-stigma
efforts are not limited to this single week. Throughout the rest of October and early November, we will host and participates in several important local events to educate the public about and provide support to individuals with mental illness.
On Sunday, October 13th at East China Park CMH is supporting the St. Clair County
Suicide Prevention Committee’s Walk 2 Remember, Walk 2 Prevent fundraiser, a 5K walk.
Registration starts at 11am. The walk will begin at approximately at 12:15pm. All donations
support the Survivors of Suicide (SOS) Support Group, the SOS Lending Library, the SOS
Memorial Garden at East China Park, and suicide prevention efforts within St. Clair County. For more information go to .

Another community outreach activity is the CMH Players annual production. This year
they will perform the comedy Fairy Tale Misfits on Friday November 8 th and Saturday November 9 th at the Citadel Stage in downtown Port Huron. Fairy Tale Misfits is a hilarious take on traditional fairy tales that explores the importance of accepting those different from ourselves. The play offers people who use CMH services alternative pathways to recovery and discovery through the arts while highlighting the diverse talents of individuals with mental illness. There is a free noon show on Friday while tickets for Friday and Saturday 7pm show are five dollars. Tickets are available at the Sail In Café and Convenience Store and our offices at 3111 Electric Avenue in Port Huron.

We are also pleased to announce an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony for our new
Child & Family Services building at 2415 24 th Street in Port Huron. This location is dedicated
exclusively to providing the best and most up-to-date services to our community’s youth. The
ribbon cutting ceremony by the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce will begin at 4pm and tours, refreshments, and an opportunity to meet our staff will occur immediately after until 6pm.

I invite you to join us in our efforts to reduce the discrimination associated with mental
illness. Together, we can change negative attitudes towards individuals with mental illness . and shape a better, brighter future.