The Mental Wellness Center hosted its sixth annual Mental Wellness Luncheon on Oct. 19 at the downtown Santa Barbara Carrillo Recreation Center, where nearly 250 friends and patrons gathered in support of the organization.
The Mental Wellness Center is a private, nonprofit organization that works to meet the needs of individuals and families affected by mental illness through support, education and direct services.
“Whether it’s you, someone in your family or a friend, we all know someone who is living with a mental illness,” said Annmarie Cameron, CEO of the Mental Wellness Center. “Unfortunately, too many people do not recognize the need for treatment until years later, when their symptoms have progressed.
“Thanks to the generous support of our community, the Mental Wellness Center continues to provide critical services for individuals and families to meet their current needs, while also focusing our efforts on early intervention and prevention. Our annual luncheon is a wonderful opportunity to update our supporters about the important work we are doing to build a future of hope and wellness.”
Board chairwoman Andrea Carnaghe welcomed guests, who enjoyed a gourmet lunch sponsored by Chef Michael Hutchings.
“I have been involved with the Mental Wellness Center for six years,” Carnaghe told Noozhawk. “It is an important and critical part of our community.”
During lunch, attendees viewed a short video about several important programs at the center, including volunteer-led presentations called Mental Health Matters. The course is taught in public schools with two curriculi (for sixth-graders and ninth-graders) to introduce students to mental health topics. The presentations are called “stigma busters” because they strive to break stigmas surrounding mental illness.
Young people were shown on screen saying, “I used to think that people had depression because it was their own fault. I used to use hurtful words like ‘mental’ and ‘crazy’ to describe people living on the streets; now I know that is not true and won’t use those words again.”
Another innovative program is Transition-Age Youth Wellness Recovery Action Plan (TAY WRAP), a course for young adults to learn how to take care of their mental health using practical strategies. Support for Parents of Teens (SPOT) is an off-site, lunchtime group for parents with concerns about their teens’ mental health.
Former Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Tom Franklin shared his story about learning of and seeking help for his son’s mental illness.
“Like so many parents, we were confused and scared and didn’t know where to turn,” said Franklin, who now serves as a volunteer for the Mental Wellness Center and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Southern Santa Barbara County.
“NAMI’s Family-to-Family program was a lifesaver. We learned how to set limits and communicate with our son. And most important, my wife and I learned that we must be patient.”
Franklin shared his experience with NAMI and the Mental Wellness Center, which he called “heroes,” as they helped his family navigate the complicated world of mental illness.
“When you support the Mental Wellness Center, you support countless families in need,” he said. “Together, the MWC and NAMI are the embodiment of hope.”
Board member Alex Filippini invited guests to invest in the Mental Wellness Center’s mission to respond to mental illness at the earliest stages and educate youth, adults, families and the community about the realities of mental illness, combating the stigma and myths that so often hinder access to treatment.
The annual event also was supported by Carnaghe, vice chairman Ted Campbell, secretary Deborah Boswell, treasurer Chad Hine and board members Bruce Anticouni, Heather Ayer, Joe Cooper, Paul Erickson M.D., Alex Filippini, Kristin Kirby, Ann Lippincott Ph.D., Pam Reeves M.D., Darcy Keep, Mack Staton and Karel de Veer.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. This article includes reportinf Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.