TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Community members gathered at Reid Park on Tuesday for the annual Candlelight Vigil for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding.
It’s held every year during Mental Illness Awareness Week, which is Oct. 7 to Oct. 12, and hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Southern Arizona.
Every year regardless of race, age, religion or economic status, mental illness impacts the lives of at least one in five adults and children across the US — this it equal to about 200,000 people.
Vana Dee Lewis has battled severe depression for as long as she can remember. It wasn’t until her lowest point that she decided to put up a fight. This year, she was one of the speakers at the event.
“When I became extremely suicidal, I knew that I did not want to go that route but those thoughts were coming up more frequently. Because I was having this constant battle, I knew I needed to do something different,” Lewis said.
Her #Worthy movement focuses on sparking conversation and helping people realize mental health is really no different from any other illness.
“It’s just like anything else. If you had a heart attack or you were dealing with a heart condition you would take medicine, you would watch what you eat you would be more mindful of it. Same thing with mental health," she said. “If you deal with depression, what are things that are proactive what are things that can help with your cognitive thinking?”
Her journey to show others their worth begins each and every morning by recognizing her own.
"Every day the sun comes out, so then that’s my cue that I got to go out to find my sun, to find my shine,” Lewis said.
In hopes that one day healthy conversation will be as common as one little symbol.
“Part of the change is to be able to talk about these things in more a comfortable and safe fashion for all of our community here in Tucson,” Lewis said.
Her story is just one part of a larger conversation NAMI is hoping to create — one that reduces the stigma around talking about mental illness.
If you or someone you know needs help:
NAMI Southern Arizona
6122 E. 22nd St.
Tucson, AZ 85711
FIND HELP IN A CRISIS OR TEXT "NAMI" TO 741741
For additional resources: www.nami.org/Find-Support