Ending the stigma

LIHUE — Kurt Nagata of Friendship House said he has been granted more years to live because of recovery.

“I still suffer, but life has a lot to offer, and now, I’m busy with life,” he said Wednesday.

Nagata started recovery when he was just 16 years old.

“I have schizophrenia, I was in substance abuse recovery programs,” he said. “I’m now 58 years old. That’s a lot of medication over the years. I’ve been there, done that. Now, I live life on life’s terms.”

Nagata was one of a handful of people waving signs at the Hardy Street roundabout to raise awareness about mental health during Mental Health Week.

Signs read, “Stamp Out Stigma,” “You R not alone,” and “Have Mo-Betta Life.” A few passersby honked and waved back.

“The month of May is Mental Health Month with a theme of ‘Life with a Mental Illness.’ Who knows this?” said Kathy Sheffield of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Kauai. “We are holding signs so at least the motorists passing will become awareness of mental health and what NAMI Kauai can do to help recover from mental health disorders.”

A peer support group is being formed for people 18 years and older to help recover from mental illness. The first meetings is scheduled 4 p.m. June 8 at Hospice Kauai.

“Now, we have a peer support group which is badly needed here on Kauai,” Sheffield said. “Mental illness recovery involves the whole family.”

NAMI Kauai recently received a grant to teach first responders how to handle people who have symptoms of mental health disorders.

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