Candlelight ceremony for Mental Illness Awareness Week set for Oct. 2 at Newman University

Event features guest speaker Coach Mark Potter

The National Alliance on Mental Illness-Wichita, the Newman University School of Social Work and other Sedgwick County mental health service agencies are sponsoring a Mental Illness Awareness Week event at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 2 in the Dugan Library building at Newman University. The event is free and open to the public.

This candlelight ceremony event strives to reduce stigma and educate people about mental illness. The theme for the candlelight ceremony is Changing Attitudes-Changing Lives. The master of ceremonies for the ceremony is Tracy Cassidy from B98 FM Radio. The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. with an opening reception and exhibits, followed by a program at 7 p.m. and the candlelight ceremony at 8 p.m.

Mark PotterMark Potter, Newman University head men's basketball coach, will be speaking at the event about his battle with severe depression. Potter is a former Newman basketball and baseball player and a former Newman basketball and baseball assistant coach. In 1999, Potter led his team to an undefeated conference championship, a national berth and a 29-6 overall record. In 2009-10 he guided the Newman Jets to an 18-10 record, its best record since becoming a full NCAA Division II member. Potter has earned numerous awards including MCAC Coach of the Year, Kansas Four Year College Coach of the Year and Wichita Sports Commission Coach of the Year.

Contrary to the magnitude of Potter's accomplishments, he suffered a severe depressive episode in 2005, which made him unable to function at his job. Potter described one of the episodes he suffered in an article stating, "I've got tears rolling down my face, and I have no idea why. I had incredible feelings of anxiety. I moved to the sink, and my wife asked if I was going to be OK. She'd probably seen me cry once in 21 years." Potter was able to overcome depression and return to his former self through accepting advice from family members and seeking professional help.

Potter's daughter, Newman University Admissions Counselor Chelsey Potter, will sing "Carry your Candle" by Chris Rice at the conclusion of the candlelight ceremony.

Mental Illness Awareness Week takes place Oct. 2-8 and is an opportunity to learn more about serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

Mental illnesses are medical illnesses. One in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year. One in 17 lives with serious, chronic brain disease.

For more information on the Mental Illness Awareness Week event, contact Gloria Hegge, School of Social Work, Newman University, heggeg@newmanu.edu or leave a phone message at 316-942-4291, ext. 2216.  You may also contact NAMI Wichita at 316-686-1373 or e-mail namiwichita@nami.org.

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