A group of Fulton County residents were very involved on Tuesday, Oct. 4, as Arkansas State University at Mountain Home observed National Mental Health Awarenesss Week.
The event centered around an exhibit by Kristy Worthen, a Salem artist whose work has been displayed at galleries around the county, including the United Nations in New York City.
Worthen, the subject of a recent profile in The News, was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in her teens, but has been symptom-free in recent years.
Worthen has traveled to 38 states to display her art and talk about the need for more awareness about mental illness, and the progress victims can make through treatment.
"Kristy's mental health flag has toured the country and been signed by President George Bush, President Bill Clinton and dozens of other politcal leaders," said ASU Mountain Home Chancellor Ed Coulter.
Coulter welcomed Worthen and leaders of the Arkansas Alliance on Mental Illness during the ceremony at the Gaston Gallery in Roller Hall.
In 2002, Worthen painted a five foot by nine foot flag bearing a lighthouse and the words, "Shedding Light on Mental Health Issues," for an event at the Arkansas State Capitol.
The flag, which has since flown over 38 state capitols, was displayed prominently at the exhibit, so visitors could see the signatures of governors, lt. governors and others who have signed it to support mental illness awareness initiatives.
State Representative Lori Benedict spoke in support of Worthen's efforts, and, like Benedict, many in attendance at the reception and art exhibit were also from Fulton County.
"We, at NAMI, work to promote awareness, education and support for the mentally ill," said Bonnie Leonhardt, the board president of NAMI Arkansas. Leonhardt lives in Cherokee Village.
"There is a stigma to mental illness," said Leonhardt, "but Kristy spreads a message of hope, treatment and recovery. She has stepped forward to share her story, and advocate for legislation and change to help those with mental illness."
After the ceremony, people toured the display of Worthen's art, which Chancellor Coulter said should be an inspiration to others.
"So many suffer from mental illness," Coulter said. "Kristy is proof it is treatable and victims can become a temendous success. She comes from Salem, Arkansas and is one of us."
Worthen and her mother, Mary, have obtained sponsors and, in coming months, plan to resume their Mental Health Flag Tour, to fly the flag and participate in awareness events at the 12 state capitols they have not visited.