Area agencies, others take part in 4th Mental Health awareness event

Participants in the walk and resource fair posed for a group shot.
Marlo Young and her fellow walkers stopped for a quick pose before entering the Boxcar Willie site.

News Staff Writer

A virtual host of mental health advocates gathered in Atmore last Saturday (May 25), but thanks to the weather, there weren’t as many of them as had initially committed to the gathering. And thanks again to the weather, not as many people took advantage of the resource bonanza as had been expected.
A storm system that was projected to move through the city on May 18, the original date of the 4th Annual Mental Health Awareness Walk and Resource Fair, forced a week’s postponement, causing some of the agencies and individuals to have to pull out.
Still, mental health professionals or volunteers from seven different entities explained their respective services while handing out literature and various freebies.
“Bringing them together like this doesn’t happen all that often,” said event organizer Marlo Young, probably the most avid advocate for mental health in the immediate area. “We had some more that were supposed to be here, but we postponed last week, and that put off some of them from coming, since their schedules were already set.”
Another factor in a lower-than-anticipated turnout of people seeking such information was the summer weather that greeted city residents on Saturday. High humidity enveloped the area on Saturday morning, although an occasional breeze or a group of passing clouds provided some relief.
That was also a factor in the number of people who actually participated in the awareness walk that preceded the resource fair. Only 12 people gathered at Heritage Park and marched to the boxcar site, where they passed through a balloon-festooned archway at its entrance.
Young said the walk is an important part of the event, but not the most important.
“This is where the connection happens,” she said, waving her arm at the various booths. “The awareness is the walking, but these are the resources to get people connected to mental health resources, community resources, family and children resources.”
The crowd began to pick up after Delores Wilson and Janet Wilson of Queen Kreations arrived with free hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, doughnuts and cookies, and Russell Robinson began spinning disks from his sound system.
Young, who is the Alabama Community College System’s Community Outreach Navigator for Adult Education (South Region), works untiringly to help raise awareness of the services available and the services not available across the state.
That dedication causes Erma Ruffin, a volunteer who manned one of the booths, to worry because Young’s job keeps her on the go.
“She’s always traveling,” said Ms. Ruffin, who is Young’s mother. “She’s always up in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham or wherever, always on the road. I pray for her every day.”
Loumeek White, president of the Escambia County Board of Education, was one of the walkers. He said Young’s perseverance and dedication have been a major part in creating an increase in public awareness of mental health issues and the help available for people who suffer from them.
“Mental health is an important part of the education process,” White said. “Marlo is doing a wonderful thing out here. Awareness has really grown since she started this. A lot of people have mental health problems, but they didn’t have any outlets. Events like this help open up avenues for people with mental health problems, students, teachers and everybody else.”
The following agencies, organizations or other entities had booths at the resource fair:
*National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), sponsored by Baldwin Co. Education Association

  • *People Engaged In Recovery (P.E.I.R.)
  • *Regional Autism Network
  • *Healthy Minds Consulting
  • *Drug Education Council
  • *Cee New Designs (Rachel Chambers, a therapeutic artist)
  • *Concerned Citizens of Atmore