NAMI honors local mental health efforts, advocacy
The Daily Record - 8/26/2018
WOOSTER — Everything Gabe Howard’s family knew about mental illness, they learned from television.
And that taught them, Howard said, “that mentally ill people came from other people’s families and they had bad parents.” So when Howard began experiencing anxiety and the mania that comes with bipolar disorder, “their son was not sick,” he said. “Their son was a brat” and was punished accordingly.
But by the time Howard was 25, he found a friend who recognized his symptoms and told him they needed to go to the hospital. “Why would I go to the hospital?” came the reply. “I’m not sick.”
Turns out, the friend was right. And though it took some time to come up with the right combination of medications, Howard told the audience at the NAMI of Wayne and Holmes County’s annual gathering Thursday, he now considers himself recovered.
For him, that means “I spend more of my life living than I do managing my bipolar disorder,” Howard said. It’s gone from being “100 percent of my life to this tiny percentage, this manageable percentage.”
And, he said he’s realized this because, “I’m just lucky.”
He had that friend. He had good insurance. He had money.
Now, Howard is an advocate for mental health services, a motivational speaker and author and the host of the Psych Central Show, an iTunes Top Ten health podcast. “And if someone is lucky,” he told the group, “then someone is unlucky and that is not OK with me.”
The evening was all about advocates like Howard, from law enforcement officers working in crisis intervention to volunteers at MOCA House and members of the community who have made a difference in the mental health community.
Executive director Helen Walkerly introduced Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Ecker as the Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year in what turned out to be a tough decision, given the strengths of all the nominees.
“Deputy Ecker has been involved in many serious, diverse and dangerous incidents involving subjects with untreated mental illness,” according to the nomination letter from Wooster Police patrolman Joshua Miller, who also is a resource officer at Wooster Community Hospital. “I’ve had the opportunity to work side by side with him through the emergency committal process, and he’s displayed compassion, drive and willingness to assist in treating everyone with dignity and respect.”
Ecker also serves on the CIT Advisory Board and Committee and assists in trainings and meeting.
Also recognized for their CIT commitment were Rittman Police officer Derek Miller, nominated by Rittman Police Chief Ray Arcuri, and Orrville Police Sgt. Jaime McGreal, nominated by Orrville Police Chief Matt Birkbeck.
Doctors Dennis and Kathy Helmuth received the Ginger Handwerk Service Award, which honors the memory of Ginger Handwerk, one of the founders of MOCA House in 2010. The Helmuths have chaired the annual Walk for Wellness, NAMI executive director Helen Walkerly noted, and also were the driving forces behind the MOCA House Health and Wellness program that launched in 2015.
The NAMI Community Service Award was given to Eric Carlin and Heather Howley, volunteers since 2009 at the even Writing for Wellness program. The two also have hosted quarterly events, Walkerly said, including campfires, open mic nights and other themed events.
In the evening’s only formal business, Candace Adams, Connie Blacksten, Nancee Kearney and Joseph Messner were elected to the local NAMI board.
Reporter Tami Mosser can be reached at 330-287-1655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CREDIT: TAMI MOSSER