Advocates share their stories and urge lawmakers to invest in mental health

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MONTPELIER,VT – On Wednesday, for the fifth time in a row hundreds gathered in Montpelier for Mental Health Advocacy Day.

Throughout the day, a number of advocacy groups and community members spoke with legislators about issues concerning mental health.

The event was organized by the National Alliance on Mental Illness Vermont, Vermont Care Partners, and Vermont Association of Mental Health and Addiction Recovery.

At the event, many shared their own personal stories of mental illness. Among those attending the event, was Erika Nichols-Frazer. Nichols-Frazer lives with Bipolar Disorder and at the age of 13 she was hospitalized for anorexia. She said it was hard to find the resources that she needed in Vermont at the time.

“There was not a facility in Vermont that could provide me with the care I needed, or if there were services my family was not aware of them. So, I was sent to the Keen State Psychiatric Ward in Keen New Hampshire. So, my family had to drive five hours anytime they wanted to visit me,” said Nichols-Frazer.

After being in a psych ward as a young teen, Nichols-Frazer says it scared her to get the help she needed for many years. She dealt with depression and anxiety for all her life and she eventually was able to get the help she needed. She was relived to get a diagnosis. However, she explained it is hard to continue to get the services she needs

“Twice I’ve had to pay out of pocket completely for therapy services while I had insurance. So, just recently I had to seize twice a week psychoanalysis because I could no longer afford it, despite having good insurance,” said Nichols-Frazer.

Erika graduated from Bennington Collage’s writers seminar program where she wrote a published essay about her experience dealing with mental health in the program. That can be read here. She also writes a blog about mental health.

Erika, along with advocates and organizers at the event say there is a lot that still needs to be done. Many believe that if you have health care you should also have access to Mental Health care needs.

Laurie Emerson is the Executive Director for the National Alliance of Mental Illness Vermont. She said, “if we could focus on having that continuum of care to be able to have the transitions to inpatient to residential to community care that will really help individuals in the long term.”

Emerson believes the state of Vermont needs more funding and more space to fit its mental health care needs.

“A lot of times we all get level funding from the state and looking at improving that being able to pay workforce repaired is really important,” said Emerson.

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