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Friday, January 27, 2023

UF, Gainesville host Mental Illness Awareness Week events

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, UF Health and a handful of local mental-health groups are hosting events throughout the week.

Organized by the Mental Health Coalition of North Central Florida, the events will include seminars, workshops and films.

The goal of the week is to educate the public about mental-health issues, which are often ignored or carry a stigma, said Sheryl Conner, the president of the coalition.

“Many people know and see things going on, but they don’t talk about it till afterwards, and we need people to talk about it up front,” she said.

The nonprofit coalition began celebrating the week about three years ago when the organization first formed, Conner said. Participating organizations include UF Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Gainesville and Gainesville Peer Respite.

Today at 6 p.m., the Hippodrome State Theatre will be showing “Devrai,” a film about an Indian man who suffers from schizophrenia. Admission is free.

Lauren DePaola, the founder of the Alachua County Perinatal Mental Health Coalition, said unraveling the negative perception of mental-health illness is necessary before change can be made.

“If we’re not able, on some appropriate level, to discuss our own experiences with mental illness or mental health complications, we’re certainly not going to be able to erase any of the stigma,” the licensed mental-health counselor said.

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