NEW YORK — Journalist Dominic Carter, host of NY1′s popular “Inside City Hall” show, was fired up as he addressed members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness on Saturday. The organization and its supporters had gathered at NYC’s South Street Seaport for a “NAMIWalk” across the Brooklyn Bridge. The forecast had called for rain and clouds but according to Carter some divine intervention made Saturday “a great day in New York City!”
South Street’s Pier 17 was filled with music as several hundred NAMI supporters turned out for the 5 kilometer walk. The goal of the annual event is to raise consciousness – and funds. All proceeds from the walks are used to fund NAMI outreach, advocacy and education programs and to help promote mental health research.
As the sun broke through the clouds, Wendy Brennan, Executive Director of NAMI New York City, addressed the crowd, thanking the sponsors and introducing Dominic Carter, host of the popular NY1 television news show “Inside City Hall”.
The usually restrained Carter was animated, telling rally goers, “NY1 News wanted me to cancel my public schedule today because there’s a lot going, talk about Senator Clinton possibly dropping out of the presidential race, Congressman Fossella…but folks I could not cancel today. I had to be here today with you!”
Carter told the crowd that that he had something in common with many of them.
“You and I have a connection, we have a great connection. My mother – I’m here in the memory of Lavern Carter. It took me 25 years to deal with this folks but my mother was a chronic paranoid schizophrenic,” said Carter.
In his 2007 book, “No Momma’s Boy”, Carter discussed a troubled childhood and how he came to terms with his mother’s mental illness. Forgiveness and acceptance are prominent themes in the book. Carter touched on the need for forgiveness in his remarks.
“I have forgiven my mother and in the process of forgiving her I’ve been able to heal myself,” he said, adding, “I wish that NAMI had been able to help my mother because maybe some of the tragic things that occurred in my life would not have happened.”
Following the music and the speeches, marchers processed to the Brooklyn Bridge – taking their message of hope, recovery – and tolerance – to the heart of New York City. A number of walkers carried signs that said “No Stigma”.
Unlike other disorders, mental illness carries a stigma that is hard to shake. Fear and ignorance surrounding the illness cause some to shun the victims of mental disorders, many of whom are struggling to be independent, productive citizens. In some cases, ignorance can fuel intolerance.
On Staten Island, assemblyman Matthew Titone and state senator Diane Savino are engaged in a struggle to block the creation of a supported housing project in the St. George neighborhood. The project is designed to provide permanent housing to people recovering from mental illness. Despite the reality that supported housing clients are by definition stable and productive, Titone and Savino have joined the chorus of anxious community members who refer to the potential residents as “convicts”, “child molesters” and “drug addicts”.
Savino, who campaigned for Titone in a special election called to fill the seat left empty by the death of former assemblyman John Lavelle, is linked to Kevin Barry, vice chairman of the Downtown Staten Island Council. The council is an organization that advocates developing the area surrounding the Staten Island ferry terminal. Movement for a Democratic Society and other community organizers oppose what they see as gentrification – and the campaign to block the housing. In particular, the activists object to what they call “bigotry” directed against the mentally ill. MDS has an online petition in support of the housing initiative: www.petitiononline.com/endnimby.
Dr. Rich Rosenthal of St. Luke’s Hospital spoke about stigma at the NAMI Walk rally. He expressed the sentiments of many in attendance when he said, “When someone says something stupid about the mentally ill…have the courage to challenge them.”
“We have a common cause – supporting our community members who have mental illness,” he said.
NAMI is the largest national grassroots organization devoted to helping individuals and families affected by mental illness. For more information visit www.nami.org. In New York City go to www.naminycmetro.org.