Be the Voice Game Night to bring awareness to mental illness, resources
Newton Daily News - 12/29/2017
Dec. 29--Kristena Strum knows firsthand what it's like to battle with grief and to lose a loved one to suicide. Strum, along with members of the local Zac-Attacks Stigma club, will be hosting a "Be the Voice Game Night" to help bring awareness to mental illness.
"The group I'm in now is called Zac-Attacks Stigma and what we do is try to erase the stigma surrounded around mental health," Strum said. "We are trying to get the community together and support everyone."
The group hopes to do exactly that through an upcoming game night at 5:30 p.m.Jan. 17 at the Newton Public Library. The event will educate the community about local resources available such as support groups and counseling.
"Education is key," Strum said. "We also want to put it out there and say, 'it's OK and we are here for you.'"
Strum said she hopes to turn the game night into an annual affair.
"I want them to tell us what they expect for next year, and we will take suggestions," Strum said.
The event is open to people of all ages, with a kids' game table, music, snacks and drinks and speaker Jerry McKim will talk about mental illness and why it's important to have community support.
"There are a lot of kids who struggle with mental illness also," Strum said. "They deserve to be talked about and loved ... the smarter and the more educated our community gets about, it I think the more accepting people will be."
Strum said she also volunteers full time with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and she speaks about the topic at DMACC's Newton campus.
"I run a suicide prevention bereavement group here in town and I started that about two years ago," Strum said. "I do it out of my own freewill --I don't get paid."
Strum said because of her personal experiences it was really hard for her at first while volunteering.
"It was really hard for me to say that my brother died by suicide," Strum said. "But now since I've processed it and I do all of this it's like second nature."
She said that she wouldn't have gotten through the hard times without community support.
When Julie Gibson, of Newton, reached out to Strum to be a part of the Zac-Attacks group, she was excited to see local organization coming together, like the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
The club's name, Zac-Attacks Stigma, is in remembrance of a teen who battled with mental illness and ended up taking his own life. Strum said she believes mental illness and suicide correlate with one another greatly.
"If we can just educate the community how to accept people with mental illness, the suicide rates are going to go down," Strum said. "We have had this idea brewing for a few months and we want people to look forward to this event every year."
NAMI support groups and House of Mercy support group for people who are struggling or have a loved one who is.
"Reaching out is worth it," Strum said. "I think this will in return create a better community that is caring and supportive."
Contact Kayla Singletary at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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