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Published on April 19, 2017

Volunteers to Install Display of Irises at UNC REX to Raise Awareness of Mental Illness

National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI-Wake County) and others will help create a landscape art installation of colorful irises to raise awareness of mental illness.

The volunteers will install the display on Saturday, April 29, for several hours beginning around Noon on the Raleigh campus of UNC REX Hospital, at the corner of Lake Boone Trail and Blue Ridge Road (4420 Lake Boone Trail, Raleigh). UNC REX Healthcare is the presenting sponsor for the display, which will remain in place for several weeks.

The art installation is a re-creation of the famous Van Gogh painting, The Irises. Van Gogh created his masterpiece when he was institutionalized with mental illness. NAMI has adopted the Iris as a symbol of hope and courage.

“Our goal is to raise awareness that mental illnesses are brain disorders and that with treatment there is hope and no reason for blame or shame,” said Ann Akland with NAMI-Wake County.

One in four individuals in the United States lives with a mental illness. Of these illnesses, one in 17 is serious such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or borderline personality disorder. In Wake County alone, over 50,000 people live with a serious mental illness. According to the Association of State Mental Health Directors, people with mental illness live 25 years less than other Americans.

NAMI Wake County and the office of Wake County Sherriff Donnie Harrison and other community partners worked together to bring the first Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program to Wake County in 2005. Since then, more than 1,000 officers have been trained to de-escalate crisis situations and to take people in for mental health treatment rather than to jail. In spite of the success of that program, Harrison estimates more than 65 percent of prisoners suffer from some type of mental illness. He contracts with mental health professionals to take care of them and psychiatrists are available seven days a week. Harrison and NAMI-Wake County leaders agree that more needs to be done to help people stay out of jail.

NAMI Wake’s Celebration of Courage event raises community awareness about mental illness and raises funds to provide essential and free education and support group programs for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. Funds also support NAMI Wake’s efforts to effect change through tireless advocacy for a health care system that ensures access to treatment for those in need. These programs and advocacy efforts help both families and people living with mental illness. Learn more here: http://www.nami-wake.org/celebration-of-courage.html

Community members can sponsor an iris by going to the NAMI-Wake County website.

Media Contact
For media inquiries and to arrange interviews, please contact:

Alan Wolf, UNC REX Healthcare
919-784-4467

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