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Exploring mental health issues through film

Mental health advocates are using the medium of film to reach a larger audience.

“We feel like film is a great way to reach a lot of different demographics. Everyone is pretty interested in that medium,” said Meesha Blair, National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Oregon board of directors member. “We believe if more people are educated and understand that mental health conditions are physiological illnesses — not a choice or a character defect — it will help fight stigma.”

NAMI SO is teaming up with Rogue Community College, Southern Oregon University and San Francisco-based Art with Impact to hold a film festival devoted to mental health this weekend.

During Movies for Mental Health Film Fest 2019, audience members can watch short films on mental health issues and hear RCC and SOU student panelists share their stories of coping with mental illness.

The festival also includes facilitated group discussions, question-and-answer sessions, refreshments and live music.

Blair said she thinks the students’ personal stories will be especially moving.

“I think people are going to leave feeling inspired and uplifted. These students are so enthusiastic,” she said.

The students are dedicated to sharing their experiences and helping others avoid the difficulties they’ve endured, according to NAMI SO.

The festival is from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Rogue River Room of the Stevenson Union Building on SOU’s Ashland campus along Siskiyou Boulevard. Free parking is available in Lot 36 off South Mountain Avenue. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.

Saturday topics include anxiety, homelessness, gender identity and borderline personality disorder.

The festival moves to Grants Pass Sunday. The event lasts from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Rogue Auditorium of RCC’s Redwood Campus, 3345 Redwood Highway.

Sunday topics include depression, bipolar disorder, childhood trauma and co-occurring mental health issues with substance abuse.

To register for the festival, see fs25.formsite.com/namioregon/movie/index.html. People have the option of making a $15 donation to NAMI SO when registering.

Festivalgoers can also learn about local treatment options from panelists in the mental health care field. A Mental Health Resource Fair will connect people with information and services.

Blair said mental illness is common. One-in-five adults experience a mental health condition, and one-in-17 will suffer from a serious illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.

“It takes an average of eight to 10 years for people to get help. That’s just too long. That’s a lot of misery,” she said.

A silent auction will benefit NAMI SO’s efforts on behalf of people dealing with mental illness and their families.

Auction items include a rafting trip and local art, wine and jewelry.

NAMI SO contributes to such efforts as Jackson County Mental Health Court, crisis intervention training for law enforcement agencies, equal health care treatment for mental illness, and mental health task forces and advisory boards.

A nonpartisan, nonprofit group, NAMI SO monitors legislation that impacts the mental health system.

It offers family support groups, classes and its weekly Connection Group, where those coping with mental illness can learn from each other.

“Support from one’s peers is essential,” said Sherry McCowan, a Connection Group facilitator. “We recognize that getting out of bed can be a victory. If we can’t get up, then just living through the day may be a triumph. In Connection Group, others understand that. You don’t have to feel like something’s wrong with you.”

NAMI also supports Ending the Silence presentations that share scientific information and personal stories about suicide, depression and other mental health topics. The presentations were most recently delivered at Eagle Point High School and South Medford High School.

Call 541-774-7872 to request a presentation.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.