A 20-year Anniversary Celebration Aims To Increase Awareness About Mental Health

Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems, Inc. invites the public to embrace the past, present and future of behavioral health issues at its 20th anniversary celebration, “Defeating Stigma—One Film at a Time.”

The nonprofit organization begins its five-film series at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, 2012 in the Historical Society of Talbot County’s auditorium in Easton with the film “Asylum: The History of Mental Institutions in America.”

“We’ve had mixed reviews about [Asylum], but we believe that it provides a realistic assessment of treatment of and for individuals with mental illness in America,” said Holly Ireland, executive director of Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems (MSMHS). “This is our history and as ugly as it’s been at times, we have to own it.”

This film offers a glimpse of mental institutions via a study of St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Washington, D.C. Completed in 1989, Asylum offers viewers a psychiatric history lesson prior to the opening of Mid-Shore in 1992. MSMHS links residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties to community-based behavioral health treatment.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Maryland Delegate Addie Eckardt; Deputy Health Officer Rebecca Loukides of Caroline County Health Department; Senior Public Health Advisor William Hudock of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services; Family Navigator Audra Cherbonnier of Maryland Coalition of Families.

MSMHS and the Defeating Stigma Coalition have collaborated with public libraries in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties for showing the other films which are “Healing Neen,” “Hearts and Minds: Teens and Mental Illness,” “Hell and Back Again,” and “I Am.” A member of the behavioral health community will lead a question and answer session after each film. All events are free and open to the public.

“We hope to educate the public about behavioral health disorders both to reduce stigma and increase awareness through this film series,” Ireland said. “The needs have not changed. We continually strive to improve services at local, state and national levels.”

The World Health Organization reports that mental illness results in more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. Other published studies report that about 25 percent of all adults living in the United States have a mental illness and nearly 50 percent of adults in the U.S. will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Maryland, about 122,000 individuals received public behavioral health services in fiscal year 2010, more than half were 21 and younger, according to the state Mental Hygiene Administration. This number represents a 29 percent increase from the previous year.

And as military service members return home, many more will seek treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which in decades past was recognized as “shell shock” stemming from the trauma of war. That, Ireland said, is one more reason to increase awareness so that friends and family can assist in getting help for their loved ones as well as themselves.

Additional information about MSMHS and time, date and location for each film in the series and may be found online at www.msmhs.org.