LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - It is Mental Health Awareness Week and a Little Rock non-profit is working to create change. The STARR Coalition works to increase communication and partnerships with stakeholders. Staff said recent changes in the state could lead to many mental health systems closings.
This would leave thousands of Arkansans without treatment. The group launched the ARmindsMatter campaign along with concerned community members. By educating the community, they hope to change the stigma surrounding mental health so that there are more conversations about it.
The STARR Coalition holds a schizophrenia audio simulation, so people can experience what it is like to live with schizophrenia and do basic life tasks. They hope this simulation will be eye-opening to those who don’t live with mental illness.
“I knew I needed the help because I keep on hearing voices and I was getting into trouble all the time,” patient Darrel Coleman said.
Coleman receives help at Inspiration Day Treatment. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 19 years old.
The STAAR Coalition allowed people to experience what life can be like while living with schizophrenia Luke Kramer with the STAAR Coalition created the simulation, hoping to end some of the stigmas surrounding mental illness.
“A time for us to really come together and recognize mental illness and really celebrate that there are some wonderful, creative, amazing people that live with but we also have to do our part to take care of those that need us,” Executive Director Luke Kramer said.
Over 100,000 Arkansans live with a mental illness that needs intensive treatment. Kramer is concerned that treatment will be hard to find. He says in the last 18 months there’s been a reduction in funding across the board of at least 11 percent.
“We’re seeing every organization we’re talking to is just bleeding out money and it’s just an amount of time before they shut their doors,” Kramer said.
Coleman said he was ashamed to ask for help when he was younger. He hopes raising awareness will make mental illness less taboo.
“A doctor came up to me and talked to me and offered me some medication and some help and I took his advice and from there on my time went well and I stayed out of trouble,” Coleman said.