First lady Cecile deJongh joined representatives of 10,000 Helpers as they launched a new mental health awareness campaign at a fundraiser in Judith’s Fancy Saturday night. The evening’s events were dedicated to the memory of deJongh’s sister, Lisa Marie Galiber, who passed away last year. Galiber suffered from mental illness and was an outspoken supporter of mental health issues.
At the event, 10,000 Helpers unveiled a new public service announcement that started airing on local television networks this week. The commercial encourages people to “be a friend” and not ostracize those with mental illnesses.
“Persons with mental illness desire the same things that all of us desire,” said Julie Bain, fundraising chair of 10,000 Helpers. “They desire friendship, job satisfaction, recreation, recognition, and all the things that make us who we are.”
The evening also served as a fundraiser for a new peer-to-peer initiative 10,000 Helpers hopes to bring to the island. The peer-to-peer program trains people, who are managing their mental illnesses well, as counselors, so they can help others who are not as far along in their recovery.
The group hoped to raise $6,000, which would be enough to send three individuals to receive training in the program.
DeJongh made the first donation of the evening in honor of her sister.
“It’s amazing to think that 1 in 5 Americans have mental illness,” deJongh said. “If that were the case for cancer, or any other disease, we would consider it an epidemic, so it’s something we have to pay attention to. I give all the credit to 10,000 Helpers for stepping into the breach where government falls short, where families fall short; they reach out and they’re there for people who have mental illness.”
DeJongh also took the opportunity to announce a joint initiative between herself and 10,000 Helpers to bring mental health educational materials into local middle schools, so both teachers and students better understand mental illness.
“We need to get to the younger people, so that they understand that it’s not a stigma,” she said.
She hopes to launch the initiative this May in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month.
By the end of the evening, 10,000 Helpers had raised half of their goal. Anyone interested in contributing to the charity or volunteering their time should visit their website: http://tenthousandhelpersofstcroix.org/