Local woman advocates for mental illness awareness


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - As Mental Health Matters Day approaches this Wednesday, Melissa Swald Camman, of Utica is trying to educate and spread awareness about mental illness.

Camman is a widow. Her college sweetheart Peter, who she was married to for 16 years, committed suicide five years ago. Camman said it has been a rocky few years, but with his passing, she's made it her mission to educate the public and change the mental illness stigma.

"It is so prevalent and it makes my heart so sad that people are so afraid to talk about it," Camman said. "Because they are so afraid what other people are going to think. There is treatment out there, a lot of it extremely successful and I think that's what my message needs to be."

Melissa doesn't hold back about her husband's experiences.

"There is one thing I would not have changed after he died," Camman said. "I was not going to not tell someone how he died. I was not going to lie about anything he went through. I wasn't going to be ashamed of him. I wasn't ashamed of him in life and I wasn't going to be ashamed of him in death."

As Mental Health Day Matters approaches Camman wants to enlighten those who don't know much about mental illness.  Camman attends the Albany convention where she is among hundreds of mental health advocates from all over New York State. Representatives from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Association attend too.

Participants meet with state legislators, talking about various mental health bills. It is also a day of seminars, spreading awareness and sharing stories.

Camman wants people to know, you are not alone in this fight.

"That's the thing you're not disappointing someone by being honest about your physical or your mental health."

For more information on suicide prevention visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.

Contact Allison Norlian on Facebook and Twitter.

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