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Mental health program at Amherst temple begins Sunday

One in five American adults experience mental illness every year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). One in 25 people live with a serious mental illness. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24.

“Usually in that time frame, people start college, move away from home, go into the military, get a new job, get married. It just brings their life to a halt,” said Marcy Rose, former president of NAMI in Buffalo & Erie County. “Consequently, a lot of times people will try to self-medicate. They end up addicted or using marijuana or alcohol, so 8.4 million people have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders.”

Rose will be part of a special program, “Mental Illness: A Family’s Perspective and Reporter’s Reflection,” at 10 a.m. Sunday at Temple Beth Tzedek, 621 Getzville Road, Amherst. She will encourage a permanent renewal of Kendra’s Law, which helps families more easily get loved ones into mental health treatment. A short documentary, “The Realities of Serious Mental Illness,” by Dr. David Pickar of Johns Hopkins University, will follow. Buffalo News Staff Reporter Matthew Spina will talk about his 2013 investigative series on the role of police and the health care system in mental illness treatment. The free program is open to the community.

Synagogue member Elinor Weiss, of East Amherst, asked Rose and Spina to participate in the first of a series of programs the temple plans about mental illness. The next, at 10 a.m. Nov. 20, will focus on stress reduction, said Weiss, a retired Buffalo Public Schools elementary teacher.

Q. Why did you want to bring this to the temple?

Because the issue of mental illness has been all over the country. People with mental illness are stigmatized but they’re not all getting the help they need. You judge a society by how they help the neediest and the lack of help doesn’t only affect them and their loved ones, it affects us as a society, as well.

Q. Who would you suggest attend?

The program is really for everyone. For teachers who deal with students they feel have emotional issues and want to learn a little bit more. For families seeking help. For people who want to educate themselves. This program is going to be general, an introduction to the issue locally and nationally, plus how reporters have changed in the way they cover mental illness. This issue is evolving and we need to bring it more to the forefront.

– Scott Scanlon

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