For more than six decades, Mental Health Awareness Month has been celebrated, serving as a vehicle not only to educate others about mental illness but also to eliminate stigma for persons with mental health issues. Last year, the Maryland Coalition for Mental Health Awareness, comprised of significant stakeholders from Maryland's mental health community, joined forces to further enhance mental health awareness in Maryland through the art of those living with and recovering from mental illness. Building on the success of last year's event, the coalition is again organizing a signature art event to promote awareness and understanding. The 2014 event, "Open Eyes, Open Minds: Raising Mental Awareness Through Art," will showcase the work of close to 100 consumer artists on May 1 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Jim Rouse Building of the American Visionary Art Museum.

Several statewide groups including the Community Behavioral Health Association of Maryland, the Maryland Coalition of Families for Children's Mental Health, the Mental Health Association of Maryland, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Maryland and On Our Own of Maryland comprise the coalition and represent tens of thousands of people in recovery, consumers of mental health services, families impacted by mental health issues, mental health treatment providers, advocates and policy makers.

The Coalition hopes "Open Eyes, Open Minds" exhibit will show all Marylanders that:

•Mental health is essential to everyone's overall health and well-being;

•Everyone experiences times of difficulty and stress in their lives;

•Promotion and prevention are effective in reducing the burden of mental health conditions;

•With effective treatment, those individuals with mental health conditions can recover and lead full, productive lives;

•Mental health treatment should be strongly supported by our health care system;

•All citizens, businesses, schools, government agencies, faith-based organizations, and health care providers have a responsibility to promote mental wellness and support prevention efforts.

"Open Eyes, Open Minds" which is expected to attract hundreds of participants and attendees from across the state celebrates the evolution in public awareness of mental health and works to further open dialogues about recovery and resilience. The event is open to the public and there is no cost to attend.

Herb Cromwell, executive director of the Community Behavioral Health Association

Linda Raines, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Maryland

Jane Plapinger, executive director of the Maryland Coalition of Families for Children's Mental Health

Kate Farinholt, executive director of NAMI Maryland

Mike Finkle, executive director of On Our Own of Maryland

The writers represent the Maryland Coalition of Mental Health Awareness.

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