NAMI holds annual candlelight vigil for mental illness awareness - Tucson News Now

NAMI holds annual candlelight vigil for mental illness awareness

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of southern Arizona (NAMI) held their annual candlelight vigil Tuesday night at Reid Park. 

This week is mental health awareness week. 

The vigil was aimed at sharing personal stories and journeys with mental illness and work towards increasing awareness within the community. 

Oscar Sura was one of the attendees who shared his story during the vigil.

"I was 19 when I tried to take my life because of all the baggage that comes with being a soldier that's been in combat," Sura said. 

He said it's been more than 50 years of learning, and now managing his PTSD and bipolar disorder. 

Sura is now working towards becoming a psychologist. He's also working to help young veteran seek the help they need as early as possible. 

"I don't want them to get to where we get. Where we lose our wives and our families, our jobs and homes and everything, and out of desperation, they take their lives," Sura said. 

Clarke Romans, the executive director of NAMI of southern Arizona said the organization works to help people at any stage in their journey with mental illness. However, he said they've been working to increase awareness of mental illness as early as possible. 

 "We had been waiting in Nami until people were having psychotic episodes which we now realize is pretty late in the development of that illness," Romans said. 

Romans said NAMI is now working through programs in schools, social media and opening conversations to inform younger people. 

He said half of all people who live with serious mental illnesses have diagnosable symptoms by the age of 14. 

"By normalizing it, we reduce the stigma so by the time that they may have symptoms, they seek the help that they really need without trying to hide it or being embarrassed about it or simply not knowing what is going on," Romans said. 

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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