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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 4:10 pm | Overcast 60º


Mental Wellness Center Gathers Giving Society for Show of Support for Programs, Progress

Grateful families describe organization’s vital role in their lives and those of their loved ones

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The Carrillo Recreation Center recently opened its ballroom doors to supporters of the Mental Wellness Center for the Mental Wellness Luncheon. The annual event comes in a particularly challenging year for mental-health issues, including two high-profile mass murders in Isla Vista and Goleta.

 “2014 has been a tough year for our community,” Mental Wellness Center CEO Annmarie Cameron told the luncheon guests. “Together we’ve faced far too many tragic events, each one leaving us feeling vulnerable and frustrated.”

Cameron shared an update on the organization, and provided background on mental illness symptoms and prevention that is possible at any age or stage in life.

“It may surprise you to learn that one half of chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14, and that three quarters have emerged by the age of 24,” she said. “Despite effective treatments, there are long delays — sometimes decades — between when the first symptoms appear and when people get help.”

The preventative measures discussed included simple acts of kindness and programs that help minimize the impacts of mental illness leading to a first paycheck or school schedule, helping not only the client but family members and the community at large.

“I’ve seen an increase in our services to young adults,” Cameron said. “Instead of waiting for clients and families to find us, we are reaching out to people at high schools and college campuses connecting with the young.”

A short video presentation highlighted some of these important programs and services, with testimonials from clients and families.

Heather Ayer is a Mental Wellness Center volunteer and sister of a client who shared with the audience a touching message from her heart about the effects of stigma and the impact that the center has had on her family.

“As a family, we have moved past the stigma attached to mental illness,” Ayer said. “Stigma is what initially kept my parents from sharing their trials. Stigma is what used to prevent me from inviting friends over to the house.”

Ayer said her family’s involvement with MWC includes her sister Claire’s regular attendance in the Recovery Learning Center and work at the Care Closet, their parents’ participation in the Family-to-Family Program classes and Mental Health Matters, and her own involvement in the Walk for Mental Wellness.

“The Mental Wellness Center is a place that has helped my family in so many ways,” she said. “It has allowed us to share our story as well as hear and learn from others. It has instilled confidence and independence in my sister and so many others who have so much to bring to our community.

“My family and I would not be where we are today without the love and support of this amazing organization.”

Founding member Ned Emerson invited guests to invest in the efforts of the Mental Wellness Center in prevention and not the fail-first policies that are too commonly accepted.

“Until there’s a cure for mental illness, my definition of the word prevention is minimizing the impacts of the illness on one’s life,” Cameron said. “With that, I contend, that the most important strategy to improve our community’s mental wellness and minimize the prospect of future crisis is to heavily invest in prevention and early intervention mental health services.”

A large section of Mental Wellness Giving Society members who were in attendance at the luncheon were asked to stand at the event by board chairman Joe Cooper. The gracious group supports MWC through pledges of $1,000 or $5,000 per year.

“I would like to recognize the members of the Mental Wellness Giving Society, whose generosity makes the work of the Mental Wellness Center possible,” Cooper said. “Their five-year pledges enable us to make long-term plans and provide the foundation for the Mental Wellness Center.”

The Mental Wellness Center has been serving the Santa Barbara Community since 1947, with the goals of providing recovery, education and family services to meet the needs of adults and families who are affected by mental illness.

Click here for more information about the Mental Wellness Center, including information on how to volunteer, donate or provide a corporate sponsorship to the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, or call 805.884.8440. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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