Lori Wilson and Angela Williams exchange hugs as Hope Day speakers share stories of mental health struggles. Both Ellswroth residents, Williams was best friends with Wilson’s sister, who committed suicide. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY ANNE BERLEANT

Hope Day shines a light on mental illness

ELLSWORTH — Nearly 100 people joined Hope Day at Knowlton Park on May 15 to raise public awareness and “smash the stigma of mental illness.” That is the goal of the national Yellow Tulip Project, and Hope Day was held to kick off the Ellsworth chapter.

Yellow Tulip Project ambassadors joined local voices to share stories of their experiences with mental illness and those of friends and family members.

“I truly feel the stigma of talking about mental illness was part of the reason it went to the point of suicide,” Julie Vittum said of a past boyfriend. A senior auditor for Machias Savings Bank, Vittum also presented the Ellsworth Yellow Tulip Project with a donation of $1,000.

Julie Vittum of Machias Savings Bank speaks of the loneliness of watching a loved one suffer from mental illness at Hope Day on May 15 at Knowlton Park. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTOS BY ANNE BERLEANT

Whether mental illness derives from brain chemicals out of balance, trauma or both, the stigma stops those suffering, and their friends and family, from receiving help, speakers shared.

“If you had diabetes, you would talk about it with a family member,” Vittum noted. 

Sharon Rose, an anchor with NewsCenter Maine, spoke of a torturous path to finding help for her 19-year-old daughter who had slipped into a bipolar psychosis. “She will struggle on and off with this for the rest of her life,” she said.

The crowd sat on lawn chairs and blankets, listening to music performed by the Ellsworth High School chorus, jazz band and teacher Chris Betts. One local high school student sat alone on the grass, listening with intent.

“I think it’s really important to get the word about this out there,” she said. “I don’t see a lot of this talked about.” And while she can speak of her own mental illness, she said that when it comes to speaking to friends about their own situations, it’s not so easy. Then she asked her name not be used because it would upset her parents if she spoke publicly about her mental illness.

Annie Sargent, director of Ellsworth Adult Education and an organizer of Hope Day, summed up the message: “We’re talking a lot here about hope, and it happens one person at a time.” 

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]
Anne Berleant

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