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New installation at Burlington airport highlights mental health

A Vermont woman is turning her loss into hope at the Burlington International Airport with help...
A Vermont woman is turning her loss into hope at the Burlington International Airport with help from McLean Hospital, by sharing her own story and lining the walls with others.(WCAX)
Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 5:07 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 6:17 AM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Vermont woman is turning her loss into hope at the Burlington International Airport by sharing her own story and lining the walls with others.

“On April 9th, 2016, my only sibling, and dearest friend, Ian Prout, ended his life,” Ashley McAvey said.

Awareness and help came too late for Ian. But McLean Hospital has been working hard to create awareness for others.

“Suicide is not selfish, it is desperate,” she said. “This revelation changed everything for me. And is why I’m here today. Getting the conversation started without stigma is key.”

That’s why she and many Mental Health workers created an installation. Windows decorated with stories from survivors. It’s called the BTV Deconstructing Stigma Installation. You can read the messages as you make your way to the south-end garage.

“If my brother had seen this kind of exhibit. If he had walked down a hallway and saw these incredible messages of hope, I think it could have changed his life,” McAvey said.

An award-winning public awareness campaign developed specifically for BTV. This campaign is meant to make those with mental health feel welcome and supported. Something NAMI Representative, Lise Ewald doesn’t always feel having Bipolar 1 and PTSD. Many Americans like Ewald have a mental illness, yet she feels there is still a strong stigma. According to National Alliance for Mental Illness, one in five American adults have been diagnosed with mental illness. That’s why NAMI took a proud part in this campaign as one of their sponsors.

“I write to publicly declare that I reject Stigma, prejudice, and stereotyping,” says NAMI Representative Lise Ewald.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says it’s gotten worse with the pandemic. The mayor points to health data saying Vermont can expect to lose more than 100 Vermonters to suicide by the end of the year.

“Across the state of Vermont right now we have people waiting in emergency departments to get in-patient mental health treatment. We don’t have enough beds right now in the state,” said Dr. Stephen Leffler, the president, and COO of the UVM Medical Center.

UVM is working with the state to create more beds for people seeking care. They say they’re also adding staff to help patients with mental health crises while they are waiting in the ER. But UVM officials tell us the true need is for more mental health services so people don’t need to come to the ER in the first place.

Weinberger says he has a plan to help.

“The city could instead of sending a firefighter or a police officer to an incident that involved a mental health issue, that we would be able to send this nonprofit with trained social workers to respond instead,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.

Some $400,000 local dollars would go toward this program to partially fund it. It’s federal funds like the money we got from the American Rescue Plan that free up local money for the program.

But it’s not set in stone. The Burlington City Council will vote on the topic Monday night.

You are not alone. Don’t suffer in silence. Call the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

Click here to learn more about the Deconstructing Stigma campaign and mental health facts and resources.

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