OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Some people do not like to talk about mental disorders. But it's real, and it's out there. Today though, there was plenty of talk about the illness at the Mary C. Cultural Center in Ocean Springs.
According to Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania, mental illness plays no favorites, and almost everyone has been impacted.
"If you ever wanted to find a component in our society that is virtually unbiased, it's mental health and drug addiction. If you don't have either in your family, consider yourself lucky."
And it can start early.
School principal Pam Rone says, "As educators, we hear the silent screams for help of children and families struggling with mental illness. There are simply not adequate resources to provide help to our students and parents."
Some professionals believe some of those who suffer from mental illness end up in places where they don't belong- in prison. John Whitfield is a minister and former judge.
"It used to pain my heart to have to incarcerate people because they have a mental illness that was not being treated."
One major point made today was the brain is just like any other body part.
Laura Kinsey with Gulf Coast Family Counseling says, "It's a physical organ. It can be affected by environment, experience, stress, genetics, a combination of all of those things."
Some members in the audience fight the battle every day. Melody Worsham has been diagnosed.
"As soon as you put a label on someone, you totally forget what else they are and who they might be. You know, my label, having schizophrenia is something I live with. It not who I am. I'm Melody. I've got a lot of other talents and gifts, and I have a lot of value,' Worsham said.
Mental illness also takes lives, according to Kinsey.
"Untreated bi-polar, the statistics is about 50% will die from the disease, either suicide, overdose or violence because the disease causes them to have difficulty controlling themselves."
Some say the problem is funding and treatment are lacking. Could that change? Chief Papania has a theory.
"Like anything else in society, when we've had enough. When we've had enough of the way things are, and we want change. And it's out there. The proverbial grassroots you saw today."
And today was a good start.
The event was organized by the Gulf Coast Family Counseling Center. Officials say two more neighborhood meetings on mental health issues will be held later this year.