ROCKINGHAM — Moody. Manic. Secretive.
What words — or colors — would you choose to describe the world in which mentally ill children live?
On May 10, Richmond County residents will be able to decorate plain white masks to express how they see mental illness. The collected masks will be displayed en masse at Leath Memorial Library all month.
“They paint the masks how they see mental illness,” said Suzanne Maness of Connections, a family-support group financed by the Sandhills Center and NC Families United, which provide a variety of family and children’s services.
Mental-health advocates already paint an informative picture of what can be hidden illness. For example, the National Alliance on Mental Illness says that:
– Twenty percent of youth ages 13 to 18 evidence mental-health issues. These can be substance abuse, depression or a number of other difficulties.
– Eleven percent have mood disorders — something more serious than the obstinacy or backtalk a typical teen might display.
– Ten percent experience a behavior or conduct disorder — perhaps inexplicable risk-taking or acting out.
– And 8 percent suffer an anxiety disorder more serious than just being “sad” or “lonely.”
Half of all mental illness develops before sufferers reach the age of 14, and 75 percent, before the age of 24, NAMI says. The average wait until someone intervenes? Eight to 10 years.
But those who attend the mask-making workshop will experience instant awareness: They will receive helpful literature, including tips on recognizing mental illness in children and resources to help treat it.
The session will be open to parents, children and professionals. All materials will be provided free. No painting skill is necessary, and artists may take their masks home if they really want to.
But Maness hopes most won’t.
“If they’ll let us display them, that’ll be great,” she said.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]