New game plan for mental health awareness

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(Posted Jan. 22, 2018)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

Red and White. Green and Gold. Red and Black. Brown and Gold. Those are the color schemes that represent the four public high schools of Madison County.

The amplification of these colors and what they signify reach a peak when conference or cross-town foes face off in an athletic event. It is often hard to spot a non-partisan color in the crowd.

For two upcoming boys’ basketball games, however, fans will be asked to get behind the meaning of the color green.

In this case, green represents mental health awareness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness–Clark, Greene and Madison Counties (NAMI) is bringing its Mental Health Awareness Rocks! campaign to the courts when Madison-Plains hosts West Jefferson on Jan. 23 and Jonathan Alder hosts London on Feb. 13.

“We want this to be a fun way to reach out about a serious topic,” said Kathryn Hitchcock, NAMI director.

For the game, fans are asked to incorporate green into their color scheme for the night. Additionally, local agencies will staff mental health resource booths outside the gym.

This campaign, the first one locally to bring the message to sporting events, is an answer to a challenge. Last year, NAMI national pushed its local affiliates to “think outside the box” regarding awareness campaigns.

According to Hitchcock, the NAMI affiliate in Cleveland brought the campaign to football and basketball games and discovered it was a great way to reach out to all age groups.

Wanting to recreate that success in Madison County, Hitchcock reached out to JoLynn Wheatley, student support specialist at Jonathan Alder Local Schools, and Amanda Hampton, family services and prevention education programs manager at Madison County Prevention, to see if a campaign at the school level would be a viable option.

“I was so excited when I heard about this,” Hampton said.

Shortly thereafter, Hampton contacted school leaders to see if they’d promote the wear-green idea and allow the informational booths, but also whether they would be willing to play a greater role in the campaign, as well.

“They were all so supportive and equally excited,” Hampton said.

In the days leading up to the games on Jan. 23 and Feb. 13, school administrators will make daily announcements in which they share mental illness statistics pertaining to youth, discuss celebrities who are open about their mental illness, and offer ways to help people in need.

“We want to erase the stigma of mental illness,” Hitchcock said.

Though the county’s mental health organizations have been hosting meetings and seminars on a regular basis, Hampton said it is often hard to get the public to come out to these events. She said she hopes a broader audience is reached with the new game plan, so to speak.

“The only way we can be successful is if we share information,” Hampton said.

“We want people to ask for help, talk about it, and know that they are not alone,” Hitchcock said.

For the Madison-Plains vs. West Jefferson match-up on Jan. 23, the freshmen game begin at 4:45 p.m., the junior varsity at 6, and the varsity at 7:30. Madison-Plains High School is located at 800 Linson Road, London.

For the Jonathan Alder vs. London game on Feb. 13, the freshmen play at 4:30 p.m., followed by the junior varsity at 6 and the varsity at 7:30. Jonathan Alder High School is located at 9200 U.S. Rte. 42, Plain City.

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