Teens raise awareness for mental illness

Published 7:48 pm Friday, February 15, 2019

On Valentine’s Day, the LaGrange Youth Council hosted a teen movie night at Sweetland Amphitheatre, with proceeds from concessions benefiting the National Alliance of Mental Illness of West Georgia.  

LaGrange Youth Council members hosted the free event for the express purpose of raising awareness for mental illness and encouraging support and understanding for young people dealing with mental health issues.

“We have seen first-hand in our community what an impact it does [have], and we want to raise awareness to this topic and spread kindness and joy to others,” said Emma Strickland, a LaGrange Youth Council member.

The youth council has taken an active interest in mental health, with members visiting the Troup County Mental Health Court to learn about mental health in the community. A member of the council has also written a column for The LaGrange Daily News on the importance of promoting mental health.

“Ultimately, we want to see the stigma surrounding mental illness abolished,” said Libby Criswell, a LaGrange Youth Council member. “Many teenagers are afraid to reach out for help because of the shame surrounding this topic. Our goal is to let others know that they are not alone, and they are supported and loved.”

Local NAMI representatives spoke to attendees at the event about mental health and the value of seeking help when facing mental illness.

“Maybe it will help dispel some of the stigma around it,” said Valerie West, NAMI of West Georgia co-president. 

“Maybe it will encourage other kids to speak up to either their friends or to their families, so they can get help right away.”

NAMI representatives said they also hoped that the event would encourage open and honest conversations about mental illness.

“I think it brings awareness of mental illness and the fact that we should be talking about it,” said Tammy Rogers, NAMI of West Georgia co-president. “It is not something to hide from, so we appreciate the fact that they are shining a light on it.”

NAMI of West Georgia is under the banner of NAMI of Columbus and was created to give residents of the Troup County area a location closer to home to seek support. 

The local NAMI representatives said they hope the event will also encourage more people to volunteer with the organization.

“It will be good to be able to get volunteers, because we have a great need for facilitators for our support groups — both on the peer side and the family side,” West said. “That is something that we have struggled with.”

Sweetland also donated $2 of every skate rental during the event to NAMI of West Georgia.

The LaGrange Youth Council is made up of 24 junior and senior high school students from surrounding schools. 

Anyone wishing to learn more about NAMI of West Goergia or to volunteer, should contact them at namiwga@gmail.com.