Archive for Thursday, November 16, 2006

Contest hopes to unmask mental health stigma

November 16, 2006

Halloween has come and gone, and most people have put away their costumes and decorations. Yet many individuals are still wearing invisible masks they'd rather not be wearing.

The stigma associated with the diagnosis of a chronic health condition - especially a psychiatric illness - causes many individuals to feel they must cover up their diagnosis and the feelings that accompany it.

Minds and K9s Inc., a local mental health organization, is addressing that issue with a mask contest open to the community.

The "Whose Face are You Wearing?" mask contest has prizes worth more than $1,110 and provides people with the opportunity to learn, have fun and give back to the community all at the same time.

The contest is a mental health education and stigma-elimination activity for everyone and a fundraising event for Minds and K9s, a nonprofit organization that provides mental health education, resources and programs on a variety of mental health topics.

"I jokingly say the contest is about fun, food and money, as that is what the prizes are all about too," says Sharon Cunningham, executive director of Minds and K9s.

The cost to enter the contest is $5 per mask.

"If people need ideas for the contest, our Web site has photos of some masks made," Sullivan said. "We are so thankful that the Leavenworth County Artist's Association got the ball rolling for us by donating some of the blank full-face mask molds, donated their wall display space at the library for our use for the month of October, and artist Theresa Cleaves has some of her masks on display at our local businesses."

There are four age-group categories for the contest, and people have until Dec. 9 to decorate their masks.

Organizers also have a "home party plan" in which people can contact Minds and K9s about hosting a mask making party for their adult friends, or organize a party for a group of children, Cunningham said.

Individuals wishing to donate their masks for the silent auction may do so; there are some really neat ones that will be available.

The funds raised from the event will be used to help support the work Minds and K9s does: bringing mental health education to people, where they are at physically, emotionally and spiritually.

"We have been working on getting our own laptop and projector for quite some time, and we hope this event will make that a reality. It will allow us to provide our services to small businesses and groups that do not own their own equipment, and are unable to borrow it," Cunningham said. "When we provide our presentations at large conferences, they have the equipment for us to use. Our goal is to bring that latest research and mental health information home, and make it available to everyone."

Prizes will be awarded Dec. 10 at the Leavenworth Public Library.

The Grand Prize Package is a weekend getaway and hotel package for two adults and up to three youths.

All four first place prizes are $100 EE savings bonds, and as you work your way down, all four third place prizes are restaurant gift certificates.

More information about the contest can be found on the Internet at MindsAndK9s.org, or by calling Minds and K9s at (913) 250-5433.

WHERE TO ENTER MASK CONTEST

The following locations, all in Leavenworth, are registration sites where you can make your donation to enroll in the Minds and K9s mask contest: Advantage Printing, 510 Cherokee St.; The Guidance Center, 500 Limit St.; Horse Country, 728 Cherokee St.; St. Paul Lutheran Church and School, 311 N. Seventh St.; and Sally's Choices, 412 Delaware St.

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