MARION — Passers by the city parking lot at Prospect and Center Streets in Marion may notice a new addition—a park bench underneath the tree in the ADAMH Board memorial garden. The bench was placed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Marion and Crawford Counties in remembrance of their founder, Bernie Schell. Schell was honored during a dedication ceremony, attended by several of her family members, on July 11.
NAMI of Marion and Crawford Counties had its beginnings in 1993 when Bernie and her husband Ed arranged a meeting at the Marion Public Library for family members of individuals with a mental health condition. Bernie had been active at the national level with NAMI, and she and Ed knew that there are families in every community who need the services and support NAMI offers. In addition to establishing regular support and education meetings, Bernie was instrumental in starting free Family-to-Family classes in the area in 1994. She and Carol Becker taught the first 12-week course, training families in understanding various mental health conditions, treatment options, communication and problem solving skills to help them better cope with their family situations.
NAMI Family-to-Family classes are still being offered today, with the next session to be held on Wednesdays between Sept. 7 and Nov. 30 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Crawford-Marion ADAMH Board, 142 South Prospect Street, Marion.
Bernie, who was a formidable advocate for individuals with mental illness and their families, served as the local NAMI President and helped Ohio to become the largest Family-to-Family class provider in the country. She served on the Ohio and National NAMI boards as well.
Jody Demo-Hodgins, executive director of the Crawford-Marion ADAMH Board considers herself fortunate to have known Bernie. “She was a fierce advocate, a caring mother and grandmother, a wonderful writer and a person with great vision,” said Demo-Hodgins. “She believed that society had an obligation to treat and support its most vulnerable citizens—persons with serious brain disorders. She worked hard at the national, state and local level to help this happen.”
The Marion location also currently offers a free depression support group called NAMI SHARE (Sharing Hope And Receiving Encouragement) on Tuesdays from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Crawford County provides a free support group for individuals with mental illness, called NAMI Connection, on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Bucyrus Public Library Community Room, 200 East Mansfield Street, Bucyrus. For more information on any of the local NAMI educational programs or support groups, call (740) 375-0796 or visit www.namimcc.org.
Mental illness includes major depression, major anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder, and schizophrenia.
NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI of Marion and Crawford Counties and its dedicated volunteer members and leaders work to raise awareness and provide essential education, advocacy, and support group programs for people in our community living with mental illness and their loved ones.