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NAMI Albany to march in Albany State's homecoming parade to raise mental health awareness, funds

Albany Herald - 9/26/2022

Sep. 26—ALBANY — It turns out that a pandemic isn't just hard on those who fall ill or die and their loved ones. It's also hard for those dealing with the uncertainty of the lockdowns and the disruptions of normal routines.

During the first year of the pandemic, Americans feeling symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress-related conditions rose nearly four-fold.

"Forty percent of people with existing mental health diagnoses, as well as those who have never had mental health issues" had issues, Debra Richardson, a Region 4 board member with the Georgia Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Disease Advisory Council, told Dougherty County Commission members on Monday.

A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted in June 2020 showed that 41% of respondents had one or more adverse mental health or behavioral health condition. That included 30.9% with symptoms of depression or anxiety and 26.3% who had a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic.

In addition, 13.3% reported starting or increasing substance use to cope with stress or emotions and 10.7% had seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey.

"Unfortunately, some people have lost hope and suicides are up," said Richardson, who also is a member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Albany.

Part of NAMI's efforts are to raise awareness and reduce the stigma attached to mental illness. NAMI Albany also will hold its annual walk, and for the second year will hold it in conjunction with the Albany State University football homecoming parade in October.

"Part of the reason for the NAMI walk is to raise funds for the program," Richardson said. "All the money goes first to NAMI Georgia. NAMI Georgia delivers a lot of programs. Then they sent half of the money back to Albany. They do a lot, and it's a wonderful volunteer organization.

"With us doing this with the Albany State parade, that really brings the community into it. They have a lot of (mental health) programs at Albany State."

The state of Georgia provided a significant amount of funding earlier this year to help improve the state's ranking, at the time, of dead last among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., she said during an interview following Monday's meeting. However, reaching people in rural areas like southwest Georgia remains a challenge.

"I worry about the children," she said. "It's not just COVID, but our natural disasters. A lot of our kids have grown up in trauma. I do think our school system and Superintendent (Kenneth) Dyer are focused on mental health."


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