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NAACP discusses community's need for mental health

Bay Times - 5/2/2018

QUEENSTOWN - The Queen Anne's County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Unit 7024, held its annual benefit banquet Saturday afternoon, April 28, at the Bay Country Moose Family Center in Queenstown. Local NAACP President Eric Daniels welcomed the audience of 200 people who attended.

Several traditional musical selections were sung by all, beginning with "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" by famed composer James Weldon Johnson. Prayer was offered and a wonderful luncheon provided by Helen Todd Catering of Centreville. Instrumental music was provided by electric organist Isaiah Embert.

Singing group Friends in Faith, compising Tory Brown, Zita Seals and Dana Bowser, sang two soulful songs, one "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" a capella.

Freedom Fund Secretary Paulette Jones introduced the keynote speaker for the program, titled "Breaking the Silence on Mental Health in the Black Community," Jeronica Cain of Charlotte, N.C., a licensed clinical social worker for the Veterans Administration.

Jones said, "I've had the pleasure of knowing her since ..." She paused as laughter came from the audience. Cain is her daughter and a 1992 graduate of Queen Anne's County High School.

Cain said she felt "back home." Personal childhood friends were in the audience. She talked freely defining "mental health," "What is mental illness?" "What are the causes of mental illness?" She provided clinical definitions with many personal insights from years of experience.

Cain said, "Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the U.S. More than 50 percent will be diagnosed with mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. One in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year."

Major mental illnesses experienced by one in every 25 Americans are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

Cain made a point of saying many disorders are caused by substance use. Her work has been with many veterans suffering from different conditions of service to the nation while in the military.

She said, "Please don't try to diagnose yourself. Why is it so hard for us to go get help? People feel shamed, don't want to be embarrassed or feel I'm different."

She encouraged people to be a friend to those who may be having problems. "Offer to go with them to a doctor so they don't feel alone," she said. "Don't use words like ?illness.' Use words like ?wellness.' It's important people start receiving help. I believe in God, but I also believe in therapy. We got to do more than pray. Faith without works is dead!"

Cain received a standing ovation as she concluded.

She was followed by Abundant Life Ministry Elder Kia Reed of Centreville, who provided a personal testimony on the topic. She also shared a book she has written titled "Faith and Mental Fitness." She said, "This is a testimonial!"

She enthusiastically reinforced what Cain said about the importance of seeking help for mental health issues, agreeing faith without works is dead.

Before concluding the program, the Freedom Fund Community Achievement Award was presented to the Rev. Terry Gaddy, who retired last month as pastor of Bethel AMC Church in Centreville after 16 years of service there. Gaddy took a moment to speak, complimenting the choice of topic the local NAACP chose for this year's banquet, adding, "Everyone I know is crazy!" His comment also drew laughter.

Eric Daniels made closing remarks and presented two members of the QA NAACP with awards for their commitment and dedication to the local organization. Those recognized were Freedom Fund Chairman Marsha Wilder and Executive Committee Secretary Sheila Shorter. Daniels called these "Actions Speak Louder Than Words Awards."

The program concluded with prayer and singing "We Shall Overcome."

 
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