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Purple Wave Festival: Celebrating Mental Health and Substance Abuse Recovery

By Amber Broaden, News Editor
Posted 11:45 AM EST, Tues., Oct. 4, 2016

The Department of Behavioral Health and the D.C. Recovery Advisory Council celebrated national recovery month to promote the positive impact on mental health and substance use recovery with the Purple Wave Festival on Sept. 24 in preparation for Mental Illness Awareness Week starting Oct. 2-8.

Purple Wave Festival was a one-day event intended for anyone who has or is currently recovering from mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, and homelessness as a way to promote healthy lifestyles and the positive impact of mental health and substance use recovery.

With live broadcasts from WPGC 95.5 and over 40+ vendors, free food, giveaways, entertainment, art and powerful stories of recovery, this festival attracted many people who needed a start to a better life.

As reported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in 25 adults in the U.S.—10 million, or 4.2 percent—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5 percent—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.

The Festival hosted a series of non-profit organizations to discuss mental health advocacy and programs that are in our local communities. Grassroots advocacy organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness for D.C. were present.

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NAMI DC is a grassroots advocacy program established in 1981, dedicated to providing opportunities to participate in programs and activities that enhance the quality of life for those living with mental health conditions in Washington D.C.

“I was released in February after serving 40 years in prison and since I have been out financial and emergency assistance is hard to come by but NNRC has helped me with small job assignments,” said Victor Harris, representative for the National Network of Returning Citizens. “It is important that we have a voice on pertinent issues that affect people in our communities.”

Organizations such as Hillcrest Children & Family Center, Federal City Recovery Services, The National Network for Returning Citizens, and MedStar Family Choice were present to focus on behavioral health and social services.

“Hillcrest Center is a 200 year old behavioral healthcare social services agency” said Tiffany Jordan, director of development and community engagement for Hillcrest Children and Family Center. “We promote wellness and the well-being of our service population, staff and the general community.”

Focus on health awareness and advocacy for multicultural LGBTQ communities was represented by the bilingual multicultural LGBT organization, Casa Ruby. This transcultural LGBT organization fights for human rights, transgender libération, immigration equality, access to healthcare, hate crimes/violence and many other disparities and issues communities are facing.

According to the Rhode Island Psychological Association, when people receive appropriate mental health care, their use of medical services declines.

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Many of the organizers represented service based assistance programs for holistic health.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the eight dimensions of wellness include coping with emotions, financial satisfaction, intellectual ability and occupation enrichment.

The Consumer Action Network, an Independent Peer Advocacy Program to empower mental health consumers, targets those who have had mental illness and work toward recovery and self-advocacy through their 3-step treatment program: advocacy, education and mediation.

“Mental illness is not a great concern when providing services to returning citizens,” said Harris. “Our organization attempts to provide resources to men who are reintegrating back to their communities from incarceration.”

As reported by the American Psychological Association, over 8.9 million persons have co-occurring disorders — that is, they have both a mental and substance use disorder.

So Others Can Eat is an interfaith nonprofit that also seeks to provide services to address and reform causes of hunger, poverty and homelessness, through their addiction treatment and mental health houses—Maya Angelou House and Jordan House.

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“We consider ourselves successful when we do not judge those who come to us, but do our best to nourish their bodies with food and restore their hope with opportunities and encouragement,” said Father John Adams, SOME President.

To fight the stigma against mental, behavioral and substance abuse treatment, this festival sought to provide access to any resource deemed necessary for a better life. C.A.S.C.A.D.E., the LGBTQIA organization of students at Howard University, will be hosting a Mental Illness Awareness Week from Oct. 3-8.

For more information on mental and behavioral health resources, please visit the Department of Behavioral Health’s 24 hour access helpline at 1-888-793-4357 or visit for more information.


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