HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the Huntsville Community Watch Association is hosted an event on Tuesday focused on all things mental health.

The symposium was held at the Huntsville Embassy Suites Hotel Big Spring Ballroom.

In the discussion and Q&A, the panel featured:

  • Madison County Probate Judge Frank Barger
  • State Representative Rex Reynolds
  • Licensed counselor, mental health screener, and master addiction counselor Lucy Douglas
  • WellStone CEO Jeremy Blair
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Alabama Statewide Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Administrative Coordinator John Hollingsworth
  • Capt. Jonathan Ware from the Huntsville Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team

The panel’s moderator, Kenny Anderson, the Director of Multicultural Affairs for the City of Huntsville engaged the audience on topics of the mental health committal process, what’s new in the Alabama Legislature, community mental health services, law enforcement training and response to those experiencing a mental health crisis, and more.

In a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only 11% of people with a mental illness are not able to receive care and 19 percent of people in the state with a mental illness do not have health insurance in the state of Alabama, ranking the state near the bottom in the country for people who actually seek mental health services 

“We don’t treat mental health or mental illness like we treat cancer and heart disease or any other health issue,” Madison County Probate Judge Frank Barger tells News 19. “The stigma around it is a shame that we have the stigma that we have related to someone needing to seek out help for their mental illness.”

Several organizations attended the fair answering questions and handing out information, including:

  • Partnership for a Drug Free Community
  • Huntsville VA Clinic
  • NAMI Alabama
  • Charity Tracker
  • Huntsville Police CIT
  • Madison Police CIT
  • North Alabama Mental Health Coalition
  • WellStone Behavioral Health Center
  • Carl Wilkerson (Licensed Counselor and Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor)
  • Huntsville Community Watch Association

Starting in July Wellstone Behavioral Health Center announced that they will release a 988-call number for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis.