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"Ending the Silence" Program Expands in Response to Parkland Shooting

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NAMI's "Ending the Silence" presentations teach people about the warning signs of mental health conditions and treatment options. (Pixabay)
NAMI's "Ending the Silence" presentations teach people about the warning signs of mental health conditions and treatment options. (Pixabay)
 By Trimmel Gomes - Producer, Contact
May 11, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – May is Mental Health Month across the country. As a response to the Parkland school shooting, the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI is raising funds to ramp up its mental health awareness efforts in middle and high schools in Florida.

Alisa LaPolt, NAMI Florida's executive director, says the "Ending the Silence" program educates students to recognize signs and break the silence surrounding mental health issues.

"When we speak openly about this, the stigma is lowered, because we know that mental illness is no different than a physical illness, like a broken leg or some type of disease,” says LaPolt. “This is a brain disease."

In order to provide this program at no cost to the Florida, NAMI has launched an online fundraiser through June 12th, with the company Johnson & Johnson offering to match donations. NAMI says one in five Americans is affected in some way by a mental health condition, and the group works to end the stigma about getting diagnosed and treated.

LaPolt says Ending the Silence presenters are mental health professionals and young adults who can "talk the talk" about experiencing and recovering from mental illnesses.

"We find that kids want to hear from other people who have been through this, and see a role model of somebody who has been in recovery and offers hope for getting past this,” says LaPolt.

Ending the Silence is already presenting to schools in Jacksonville and Orange County. The current plan is to raise enough funds to reach at least two-thousand students in 10 school districts, with the possibility of expanding it further.

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