NAMI holds Christmas party for residents living with mental illness

The Shelby County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) teamed up with the Shelby Baptist Medical Center and the Chilton-Shelby Mental Health Center to host a Christmas party for about nearly 100 Chilton County and Shelby County residents who are living with a mental illness.

The party began at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Shelby Baptist Medical Center cafeteria.

“We get together and buy gift items for [group home or permanent supportive home] residents throughout Chilton and Shelby County. They come here and get some home cooking, fellowship and they also get an opportunity to get some gifts that they don’t often receive,” said Brookwood Baptist Health Market Psychiatry Vice-President Zelia Baugh.

Baugh said the Christmas party helped to further NAMI’s goals to raise awareness for mental health and end the stigmas associated with mental illness.

“This allows the residents of group homes and independent living apartments an opportunity to come celebrate and be in a no-stigma zone, which means that they can be in a place where they can be treated as whole people and not just for their mental illness and not feel the shame and the stigma associated with that,” Baugh said.

NAMI Board of Directors member and Chilton-Shelby Mental Health Center Pelham Outpatient Office Coordinator Daphne Kendrick said the Christmas party also served to give residents with mental illnesses a chance to celebrate the holidays in ways they typically wouldn’t.

“A lot of people who have mental health issues don’t have Christmas. A lot of these people don’t get to be with their families, so this has been like a family event where they get to come to,” Kentrick said. “They to build their self-worth and they get to know that they’re important to the community.”

At the event, other organizations dedicated to mental health awareness also helped serve the guests. Miss America’s Outstanding Teen preliminary contestant Holly Winchester’s platform is “offering hope, accepting help,” which is about raising awareness for mental health.

“Her platform is twofold. The reason she developed [her platform] was to involve the whole community, so that people who have mental health issues can accept help, and the people without mental health issues can offer the hope,” her mother, Clarissa Winchester, said.

Holly Winchester also founded SANUS, meaning “healthy” in Latin, which is the first mental health outreach organization for homeschool students. SANUS is also sponsored by the Shelby County chapter of NAMI.

“This is something that has affected my family, and it’s really important that people are aware of it and can help others,” Winchester said.

Many of the guests also expressed their appreciation for the party.

“I love this place. I had fun last time,” guest and Thorsby resident Teleatha Minniefield said.

Guests who attended received stockings filled with toiletries, socks, hats, gloves, coloring books and Christmas decorations. Between 20 and 30 stockings were also prepared for those who were unable to attend.

“[I’m looking forward] to using everything that’s in there,” Minniefield said. “[Last year], I got candy and a puzzle book. I got some of everything. I’ve still got my stocking, too.”