“There’s a lot of fear surrounding mental illness and, truth be told, a lot of prejudice as well,” Jim Moore, president of NAMI Rome, told more than 80 people gathered Tuesday for a candlelight service at Second Avenue United Methodist Church.
“We want to replace that fear with love and hope,” Moore said.
The service marked the National Day of Prayer for mental illness recovery and understanding.
The Rev. Millie Kim, pastor of Second Avenue UMC, led a prayer of confession: “That we are still uninformed about mental illness and how it impacts individuals and their families.”
It was a sentiment expressed several times by speakers pointing out that those living with mental illness are often misunderstood — relegated to the fringes of a society that could help dispel their despair.
Juvenile Court Judge Greg Price, the keynote speaker, spoke of how intervention and inclusion can work. After an uptick of delinquent children in his court in 2012, he sought funding for a mental health counselor to work with them and their families. The rate of children re-offending dropped from 30% to 13%.
“We have cut it in half,” he said to the applause of the crowd.
Price said the applause belongs to the Floyd County Commission and the numerous agencies and organizations working together in the community.
In his courtroom, he said, he sees “a triumvirate of evil” — mental health issues, drug abuse and poverty. And he offered two words to take away in hope.
“Recognition. Not of a problem ... recognition of a need. And opportunity. The opportunity to fill that need,” Price said.
As Bonnie Moore read statements of resolve, people came forward to light seven candles — for truth, healing, understanding, hope, thankfulness, faith and steadfast love.
Attendees then wrote the names of loved ones affected by mental illness on strips of blue paper and lined up to deposit them in the prayer bowl at the base of the candles.
They each took away a prayer bead.
“Keep it in your pocket as a reminder, of mental health and mental illness and the love and the hope we can have in our community,” Bonnie Moore said.
Before the service, the Moores attended the County Commission meeting where the board proclaimed this week Mental Health Awareness Week in Floyd County.