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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The Loft brings mental illness awareness to the silver screen

    Mental illness plagues an increasing number of Americans, and in Tucson, it is no different. Many Tucsonans and Pima County residents struggle with mental illness—with many undiagnosed—and sometimes, mental health services are limited. This Sunday at 3 p.m., The Loft Cinema will host a panel discussion on mental illness, accompanied by a screening of the 2009 documentary, “No Kidding! Me 2!”

    The event will be hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Southern Arizona chapter. NAMI aims to reach out to people in Pima County with mental illnesses and give them a place to find hope. They offer free mental health support and education to those suffering from mental illness and their families. In Pima County, this is crucial.

    Scott Whitley, with NAMI Southern Arizona, said more Tucsonans and Pima County residents are mentally ill than one would think.

    “There are 1 million people living in the Tucson and Pima County region,” he said. “One in five people live with a mental illness. That means 250,000 people in Pima live with a mental illness.”

    This includes the subcategory “severe mental illness,” which prevents people from living normal, day-to-day lives, interfering with their ability to maintain relationships and work, according to Whitley. He said around 5 percent of people in Pima County struggle with this subset, meaning that many people residing in the region rely on mental health services.

    “Mental health care is switching to a for-profit company called Cenpatico,” Whitley said.

    He added that this switch definitely presents a significant shift for mental health services in Pima County, as they used to be nonprofit and community-oriented.

    “It’s integrated healthcare. Time will tell if it works or not,” Whitley said.

    “No Kidding! Me 2!” is a documentary directed by Joe Pantoliano and was created to start a conversation and raise awareness about mental illness. The film largely focuses on the societal stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many people from reaching out and getting treatment.

    “We’re trying to spread awareness,” Whitley said. “Each year, we do the NAMI walk to raise awareness. … Oct. 4 marks the first day of Mental Illness Awareness Week. That’s why we’re doing [the film screening].”

    Whitley also said a certain societal stigma encompasses mental illness. This leads to people suffering with untreated mental illness for decades, increasing their chance of committing suicide. With such a broad range of mental illnesses, the filmmakers recognize there are individuals out there who are struggling with no treatment due to the stigma.

    The film is paired with its charity counterpart of the same name. The No Kidding, Me 2! charity aims to make the discussion of mental illness normal and widely accepted through education by touring the country and hosting events and panels throughout the U.S. Much of their focus is on universities similar to the UA, where mental illness is common, yet stigmatized and undermined, as students are typically expected to “toughen up” and ignore their symptoms.

    Although services such as Counseling and Psych Services from Campus Health Service are available, they can still be limited.

    Brandi Madden, a sophomore studying speech, language and hearing sciences, said Campus Health’s services are “useful and good to have, but improvements can [still] be made.”

    “No Kidding! Me 2!” hopes to bring mentally ill college students out of the dark and into a place where they can find both find treatment and have a public forum where they can openly discuss their mental illness.

    As mental illness persists in the Pima County region, agencies like NAMI aim to bring hope and care to those who need it. The screening of “No Kidding! Me 2!” is an important part of their efforts to spread awareness, and Whitley said he hopes university students will attend to help Tucsonans struggling with mental illness come out of the shadows.

    Follow Paul Barlyn on Twitter.

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