Out of the Shadows mental health summit

A mental health symposium planned for Friday aims to help remove the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The third annual Out of the Shadows mental health summit, to be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday in the Oxford Civic Center, is designed to raise awareness and understanding in the public about mental illness.

The summit’s keynote speaker, mental health author and advocate Carol Kivler, said that by sharing her story she hopes to help others overcome their own illness.

“At 40 years old, depression brought me to my knees and changed my life forever,” Kivler said. “After being sick for 10 years, I was sick of being sick.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, stigmas around mental illness can mean unfair judgment or the belief that someone is unstable or dangerous. The clinic says individuals with a mental illness can combat the stigmas associated with their condition by getting treatment, avoiding isolation and joining a support group.

Kivler said that the stigma placed on on individuals with mental illness by others is harmful, and can even cause an individual to doubt their ability to recover.

“People are ignorant,” Kivler said. “They don’t realize that this is an illness. I want people to see that they can reach wellness. I want them to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

While the main focus of the summit is on making the public aware of the issues surrounding mental illness, mental health professionals will also be able to register for the event. Cost for the public to attend, which includes lunch, is $5, while professionals can pre-register for $50 or pay $65 on the day of the event.

The summit, which is funded by a grant from the  Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama and organized by Jacksonville State University, will also include panels on subjects like suicide prevention, the challenges of mental health care in rural areas, and the intersection of mental health and faith.  

Kivler said she wants the main takeaway from her address to be one of hope.

“There is hope,” Kivler said. “You too can get to the other side.”

For more information or to register for the summit, contact JSU Continuing Education and Outreach at 256-782-5918.

Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or danielmayesstar@gmail.com. On Twitter @DMayes_Star.