Cabarrus

Davidson resident leads association

More than 15percent of the U.S. population meet diagnostic criteria for mental disorders, according to the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

Others speculate that up to half the population deal with various levels of mental health disorders that contribute to overeating, resulting in diabetes and heart disease. Less than 7percent of government funding goes to assisting mental health.

Stacey Anderson of Davidson is president of the Mental Health Association of the Central Carolinas, which provides mental health advocacy and education and prevention of mental health disorders in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties.

Anderson became interested in mental health when her mom developed dementia in her early 80s and began taking medication. But she forgot to take her medicine and lost track of time.

Doctors drained fluid from her spine to relieve pressure on her brain. But that didn't help, either.

Her health prevented her from visiting her other daughter in Italy at Christmas, and she later died of liver failure. That and similar stories motivated Anderson to volunteer with MHA-CC five years ago.

"I am very proud to be associated with such a strong organization," she said. "It has survived the recent challenges in reduced funding (and) growing need, and yet the MHA has grown in the past year through the adoption of the ParentVOICE Program and staff."

ParentVOICE is one of two programs that educates and supports consumers of mental health services. It is for families with youth dealing with emotional, behavioral or mental health concerns. It explains education and mental health systems and allows parents to connect with other parents.

ComPeer is the second program that Anderson wants to continue to develop. It pairs someone with a severe mental illness with a volunteer in a Big Brother-like relationship. Volunteers are expected not to be therapists, but to help with socialization.

This cold holiday season may evoke mixed emotions about family, friends and self-worth. MHA can provide suicide prevention training for groups to learn life-saving skills in less than two hours.

Individuals can attend a state conference May 11 in Charlotte, titled "Coming Full Circle: The Recovery Continuum," at which actress Mariel Hemingway will be the keynote speaker. Registration begins in January.

For more information visit www.mhacentralcarolinas.org/index.cfm. Make donations online or send them to 3701 Latrobe Drive, Suite 140, Charlotte, NC 28211.

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