Mental illness was the main topic of discussion at a conference in Oxford today, and it could lead to an even bigger discussion later this year in Montgomery. Hundreds of professionals from a variety of fields joined with laypeople and others at the Oxford Civic Center today for the third annual Out of the Shadows program that seeks to remove some of the stigma attached to mental illness.
A major topic of discussion was mental illness in the Alabama prison system, which has been criticized for failing to offer adequate treatment for its inmates. State Representative Koven Brown of Jacksonville took part in today’s program, and he says he expects mental illness will be a major focus of the upcoming special session dealing with state prisons.
Calhoun County already has a mental health component in its court system to deal with some of the problems Representative Brown mentioned. It’s overseen by Terran Hayden, a community coordinator and therapist for Highland Health Systems. Hayen says programs such as Out of the Shadows are a good way to overcome some of the public’s negative stereotypes about mental illness.
Anniston attorney Brenda Stedham chairs the committee that plans and runs the Out of the Shadows conference each May. She says the program is designed to meet the needs of many different communities.