Sunday, 17 February 2013

Mental health group gives hugs to Va moviegoers                    

WAYNESBORO, Va. (AP) — Moviegoers got more than just tickets when they arrived at a Waynesboro theater. Volunteers raising awareness about depression and seasonal affective disorder were there to offer hugs.
Seven volunteers held out bowls of chocolate and wore signs around their necks offering free hugs at Zeus Digital Theaters on Friday, The News-Leader ( reported.
The volunteers were with a local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They also handed out literature about mental illness. The annual event was timed to occur around Valentine's Day.
Some onlookers declined to take part in the festivities, but there were many from the younger generation taking the group up on its offer.
"You just made my day!" exclaimed Kara Kirby, 12, after hurrying over to hug volunteer Judy Isak and get a "warm fuzzy" — colorful mini pompoms. Her friends, 12-year-old Katie Cumming and 13-year-old Emily Baraclough followed suit with big smiles.
The group held a similar event last year at a Staunton mall but decided to find a busier venue this year.
Volunteer Henry Brennan made an oversized cardboard hand that read "Go NAMI" and drew plenty of high-fives, especially from men.
A college student who also works as a peer recovery specialist at Western State Hospital, Brennan said he felt it was important to reach out to young men, who often find it difficult to admit they have a mental illness. Brennan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 18.
"I feel good when I can catch guys my age who are denying it, and I can let them know that I've experienced some of what they are going through," Brennan said.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in any given year about one fourth of adults struggle with a diagnosable mental illness, while one in five children will have a debilitating mental disorder sometime in their lives.

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