Signs Against Stigma
Billboards offer mental health help.
From the June, 2021 issue
"Support NAMI," a digital billboard on W. Clark and Huron River Dr. announced in May. Another called out to drivers on Cross St. near the Ypsilanti water tower.
For Mental Illness Awareness Month, the Washtenaw branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness took its message to the streets. Promising "Hope from Those Who Know Mental Health," the signs publicized phone numbers for a NAMI health line and Washtenaw County Community Mental Health.
Based in the NEW Center on N. Main, NAMI doesn't provide treatment itself, but it connects its members and others facing challenges like depression and anxiety to resources. "We desperately want to help people and to make mental health care accessible to all," emails NAMI volunteer Tracy Harris.
A small group of volunteers came up with the billboard plan. A designer volunteered his time to create the ads, but the group paid to have them displayed. They could afford only one month, so the signs will be gone by June.
Gauging their impact is tricky, says office manager Barb Higman, since the phone number is national. But NAMI will continue to look for ways to get the message out.
It's always better to get help sooner rather than later, Harris explains, but the stigma surrounding mental illness holds many people back.
"We want people to know where to go," she says. "You don't have to wait till you snap."
[Originally published in June, 2021.]
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