Time to Talk Mental Health: Grassroots Efforts Are Making a Difference – Davie County Enterprise Record

By Glenda Smith

For the company

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, recognized in the United States since 1949. It was founded by Mental Health America, formerly the National Association for Mental Health. Mental Health Month aims to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illness and reduce stigma.

Over the next few weeks, one or more of the nine organizations included in the Piedmont Triad Mental Wellness Peer Support Groups brochure will be highlighted. Initial coverage by the Davie County Enterprise Record about the brochure was in the February 24 edition. Brochure content can now be viewed on Facebook by entering the exact Piedmont Triad Mental Wellness Peer Support Groups, including spaces.

The first mental health peer support group to be covered is the Forsyth County Mental Health Association. It is a subsidiary of Mental Health America. MHA is the resource navigator, educator and community connector for mental health care in this area. Andy Hagler is the Executive Director, 336-768-3880, [email protected]. The local MHA website is www.triadmentalhealth.org. Updates regarding their support group information can be found on the website.

When I first attempted to locate mental health resources in this area, MHA made some helpful recommendations regarding what they offered and what some other local organizations offered.

Susan Wheeler, MHA Staff, NC Certified Peer Support Specialist, is the largest distributor of mental wellness peer support brochures. Once a week, Susan provides patients discharged from behavioral health units at Forsyth Medical Center, Wake Forest Baptist Hospital and Old Vineyard with a copy of the brochure. Once every three weeks, she distributes pamphlets to patients discharged from Novant’s Forsyth Behavioral Health Outpatient Facility.

A future article will explain and describe the many roles of peer support specialists. They are a very underutilized resource for helping individuals achieve mental well-being. For mental health peers interested in working with others dealing with mental health issues and wanting information, search for “peer support specialists in North Carolina.” All of the PSSs I have spoken with find their work rewarding.

MHA offers 4 types of support groups:

• Anxiety Disorders is for adults with generalized anxiety, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder or any other anxiety disorder.

• Thrive is for young adults, ages 18-30, with any mental health issue.

• Schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder is for adults.

• Tides is for adults with depression, bipolar disorder and other mood disorders.

The following historical event relates to the MHA organization and illustrates how far society has come in understanding and treating mental illness:

In the early 1950s, MeHA applied for asylum across the United States to supply the shackles and shackles that were once used to restrain people with mental illness. On April 13, 1953, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, these inhuman restraints were melted down by the MHA and recast into a 300-pound sanity bell. This bell is the symbol of mental health in America. It also symbolizes hope. On the bell are inscribed these words:

Thrown from the chains that bound them, this bell will ring hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people facing mental health issues. Hopefully one day soon, the current constraints to kindness, understanding and support for these people will be overcome by caring and empathetic hearts.

For meeting updates and current information, check a support group’s website or contact person.


NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a national organization with state and local affiliates that offers mental health peer support groups and an abundance of education, leadership and advocacy opportunities.

Personally, NAMI has given me the opportunity to become a state trainer for the “NAMI Connection Recovery Peer Support” program and facilitate these groups, and to become a “Peer-to-Peer” trainer and presenter ” In Our Own Voice”. NAMI is the second organization to feature in “Time to Talk”.

My connection with NAMI began when a friend introduced me to their Rowan County branch. Later, Julie Whittaker, co-contributor to this column, and I attended what was NAMI Forsyth at the time. Now the counties of Davie, Stokes, Davidson and Forsyth constitute the NAMI NW Piedmont branch. Julie and I sit on its board of directors.

NAMI NW Piedmont President Louise Whealton provided the following about NAMI.

“NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) started in the late 1970s with two women in a cafe who realized each had a son with mental illness. From this foundation grew a nationally recognized organization that educates, supports, advocates and funds research on behalf of people with mental health diagnoses and their families.

“No one can remember exactly when the local branch, NAMI NW Piedmont, NC, started. By the mid-1990s, we were regularly hosting family support groups and teaching family education classes. Davie, Forsyth and Stokes counties and began programming in Davidson County.

“In addition to providing support groups for families and people with mental health issues, volunteers teach educational classes developed by NAMI for families and individuals.

“Davie County NAMI members comment on county commissioners meetings and participate in Davie County Mental Health Advocates. Members of our branch helped create our CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) program for first responders. We participate with the Mental Health Collaborative, a group that comes together to share mental health resources. We helped plan and support Forsyth County’s Step Up Program which helps people with mental illness transition from prison to community life. We helped develop and serve as advocates with the Forsyth County Mental Health Court. NAMI members also sit on committees with our LMEs/MCOs (Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organizations). The details of some of these programs will be explained in future articles.

“No one at NAMI NW Piedmont, NC is a licensed mental health professional; everyone is a volunteer. However, we all have a family member with a mental illness or with a mental health diagnosis. Our strength lies in the training offered by NAMI NC which prepares us to lead NAMI programs, our basic knowledge of local resources and our willingness to listen.

To visit naminwpiedmontnc.org.

Glenda Smith is a mental wellness advocate

who lives near Mocksville.

Comments are closed.