Candice Crawford, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, announces the launch of the It’s Okay to Get Help campaign.
Oftentimes, at the mention of mental illness, people imagine a homeless person pushing a shopping cart filled to the brim and carrying on a conversation with an invisible companion. Unfortunately, mental illness is more common than most realize, and people from all walks of life can be affected by either long-term or temporary mental or emotional conditions, such as depression, or bipolar and anxiety disorders.
Mental illness crosses all socioeconomic, gender and professional lines; no longer is it considered a character flaw or “lack of getting it together.”
According to the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, one in four people seek mental health treatment at some point in their lives.
Recently, high-profile celebrities, including Catherine Zeta-Jones and Demi Lovato, have come forward with their own diagnoses in an effort to increase awareness and dispel the stigma attached to mental illness.During a recent interview, Zeta-Jones was quoted as saying, “There is no need to suffer silently, and there is no shame in seeking help.”To spread that message, MHACF launched It’s Okay to Get Help, an awareness campaign designed to break down barriers and encourage people who may think they have mental health issues to seek assistance.A number of community leaders, including Southwest resident Dick Batchelor, Orlando Police Chief and Dr. Phillips resident Val Demings, former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, Orange County Mayor and Southwest resident Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando Sentinel columnists Scott Maxwell and Mike Thomas, attorney Todd Miner and radio personality Jim Philips, have each appeared in a Mental Health Minute segment that discussed some aspect of mental health. The segments air on Bright House Networks and can be viewed on MHACF’s website.MHACF is a nonprofit organization that relies upon private donations and funding from governmental entities to provide much needed services and programs.“During the 1990s, [MHACF] received an influx of funds and support, largely because of the efforts of a group of policymakers and influential members of the Central Florida community,” said Candice Crawford, president and CEO of MHACF.This year, as a way to honor those who have made an impact in the mental health arena, both locally and statewide, Crawford conceived of the Legacy of Champions Luncheon. The event will also serve to increase awareness of MHACF and raise funds vital to the continuation of the services the group provides.The inaugural event will take place June 17 from 11:30a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Orlando Downtown Hotel. Among those who will be recognized are Batchelor, state Rep. and Speaker Dean Cannon, Linda Chapin, Crotty, state Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, Orange County Clerk of Courts Lydia Gardner, former Florida Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, Rich Morrison, Chief Judge Belvin Perry, and Orange County Public Schools Chairman Bill Sublette. The 2011 Champion Honoree is Lars Houmann, president and CEO of Florida Hospital. The Florida Hospital Neuroscience Institute is the presenting sponsor.An unexpected twist of fate launched the Legacy of Champions to a higher level of prominence, when former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy II agreed to be the featured speaker.Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was a strong proponent for both health and mental health care reform. In addition to significant health care legislation, Kennedy was the chief sponsor of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which outlaws health insurance plans from setting lower limits on treatment or higher co-payments for mental health services than for other types of medical are.
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy II, who has been treated for depression and addiction, will speak at the Mental Health Association of Central Florida’s The Legacy of Champions Luncheon on June 17.
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