Mental health advocates premiere new book

Mental health advocates premiere new book


AMI Region II, Advocates for Mental Illness Education, an Illinois-based, volunteer not-for-profit organization, has available for sale its second self-published volume of prose, poetry, verse and art by mental health consumers, and the families, friends and professionals who care for them. The book is entitled Word Explosion II: Poetry, Verse, Prose and Art. AMI Region II, a network of mental health consumers, their families, friends and caregivers, engages in educational activities and publishing projects to improve and enlighten the public about mental illness. The book will serve as an object of therapeutic empowerment to contributors, and as an educational tool for the general public—all to expunge the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The 176-page volume includes the collected works of 105 different contributors from 19 states across the U.S., with the largest single group from Illinois. It depicts the real-life experiences of the mentally ill and how they’re coping with, or even overcoming, their problems. Authors and artists share in words and illustrations, their dreams, visions, hopes, concerns and fears. Readers will gain insights into the inner world of those afflicted with maladies such as depression, bi-polar disorder (manic-depression), schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders. Some of the works may be considered haunting, dark, mysterious and moody, while others are light, cheerful, elegant and beautiful. But all renderings are conveyed with deep feeling and honest emotion.

Glenview resident Vi Orr, who just stepped down as president of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill—Cook County North Suburban affiliate after 12 years, originally conceived the Word Explosion books. Mrs. Orr has been instrumental in editing and producing the latest volume in cooperation with volunteers Aloise Aigner Zehner of Evanston, Larry Brittan of Skokie and Jean Bernier of Wilmette.

Mrs. Orr believes the books are unique: “While there have been creative writings published in the newsletters of various mental health agencies, and of other client groups besides AMI Region II, and there is a professional journal titled The Awakenings Review, to my knowledge, our publications appear to be the first full-length books to present a collection of prose, poetry, verse and artwork by mental health consumers and their families, friends and professional caregivers,” says Mrs. Orr.

Orr and Zehner and other volunteers began work on the first book by soliciting materials from individuals and through therapists at mental health centers. Right up to the deadline for submissions, the response was tremendous: There was a literal “explosion” of materials submitted by respondents. Indeed, more than 500 entries hit the organization’s Glenview post office box. Then the first book sold out its initial press run—proving its popular appeal.

“We had so many submissions, and they came in a variety of forms,” explains Mrs. Orr, “that we couldn’t possibly put them all in one book. We realized that we had to publish another book to include all the works we received from respondents. And we wanted to fulfill our promise to publish a new book.”

That new book is now ready for order. AMI Region II anticipates that the second book will be as popular as Volume I. The cost per book is $10, plus $1.95 for shipping and handling, and .50 for each additional book ordered. To obtain copies of the new volume, write to: AMI Region II, Advocates for Mental Illness Education, P.O. Box 893, Glenview, IL 60025. Phone: (847) 729-1457, or visit the web site:

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