A series of events Sunday will kick off Mental Illness Awareness Week in Tucson.


The events begin Sunday morning at Reid Park, with the Out of Darkness Walk and Recovery Expo, a walk and resource fair intended to support suicide prevention and recovery.

Then, at 1 p.m., a news conference at the Loft Cinema will explore current issues in mental health. Raising awareness about this topic is particularly important right now, said Scott Whitley, board member of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) of Southern Arizona and the Tucson Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

“The stigma around mental illness is very high right now because of current events,” Whitley said, referring to recent mass shootings linked by media reports to mental illness. “But it’s a treatable illness ... just like diabetes or high blood pressure.”

Speakers at the news conference will include U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, documentary filmmaker Doug Blush, and Tucson Police Department Sergeant James Kirk. Their presentation is open to the public.

A panel discussion and screening of Blush’s film about bipolar disorder, “Of Two Minds,” will follow. Community interest in the panel and screening have been so strong, Whitley says, that there is currently a waiting list for tickets to the event.

Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week in 1990, in recognition of NAMI's efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Mental Illness Awareness Week 2013 will run from Oct. 6-12.