Minds Interrupted – live theater

Date: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 9:40 PM

Pamela Field is president of NAMI-DAC (The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Dona Ana County affiliate), is a psychiatric nurse and has a son who has schizophrenia.

May is mental health month. “We care about the mentally ill in this community,” said Brenda Viloria, Director of Nursing at Sierra Vista Hospital in Truth or Consequences, when I was talking to her about working as a psychiatric nurse. Ms. Viloria went on to say “We have many mentally ill people who stop here. They say they like the name of the town.”

The people of Truth or Consequences proved this when they recently supported “Minds Interrupted”, a live performance of storytelling by someone affected by mental illness. I saw this performance-and I was moved to tears.

I met recently with Michele Herling, the Executive Director of Compassionate Touch Network, Santa Fe, who spearheaded the performance as well as ones in Espanola, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Baltimore, MD. Ms Herling, who had a brother with a mental illness said she was compelled to transform the” shame, stigma, silence and secrecy” of mental illness into live theater performances to reach people. “Much of the performance is what happens with a live audience.”Like any live theater. Ms Herling is going national,-has a performance in St.Paul, MN,. in June, and has plans for Portland, OR, and Tucson, AZ.

I want to bring “Minds Interrupted” to Las Cruces.

The project is funded partially by the NM Arts-A division of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. The community in Truth or Consequences bathed this performance with support and love and contributed to bring it to their town. How can we do the same?

According to a new survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 20 percent of American adults live with a mental illness. However, only 39 percent of these 45.9 million American adults received mental health services in 2010. It went on to say individuals between the ages of 18 to 25 experienced the greatest number of instances of mental illness, at 29.9 percent.

According the World Health Organization, mental illness is responsible for more disability in developed countries than any other group of illness including cancer and heart disease.  New Mexico has some stark statistics.  According to the NM Suicide Prevention Coalition, New Mexico’s suicide rate is 1.5-2 times the national average; the third highest rate in the country.  Almost 7 people a week die by suicide. Suicide kills more people in N.M. than drunken driving, homicide and breast cancer combined. These numbers were reported in the Las Cruces Sun Times on 12-28-11.

Though suicide is a complex issue, it’s fair to say that some people die when they don’t receive treatment. Here in Las Cruces, we have many hard working people trying to deliver services, but a drastic shortage of beds, aftercare, and services to assist people with mental illnesses to live a stable and at minimum a safe lifestyle. Memorial Hospital has 12 inpatient beds. Mesilla Valley has more beds but no long term care. Vans drive patients to Las Vegas every week so patients can receive longer care though many of these people arrive back in Las Cruces after a few days and then start the whole process all over again.

The problem appears insurmountable. The creation of the New Mexico State University Community Mental Health and Wellness Clinic is a wonderful start. But we can do so much more.  Raising awareness and erasing stigma are key in changing minds.  As well known anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Let’s bring “Minds Interrupted” to Las Cruces.


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