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Edmond mental health event urges people struggling to 'never give up'

Kyle Dillingham, of Oklahoma City, will play broken violins at a mental health event in Edmond on Oct. 3.

Kyle Dillingham, of Oklahoma City, will play broken violins at a mental health event in Edmond on Oct. 3.

Oklahoma City — NAMI Edmond will host an event on Oct. 3 with metaphorical music and stories from people with mental illnesses and their families.

The event, called “Never Give Up Hope,” will run from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Festival Market Place in Edmond. There isn't a charge to attend, but there will be food trucks and a silent auction. Helen Coffey, vice president of NAMI Edmond, advised people who attend to bring their own chairs.

Kyle Dillingham, an Oklahoma City violinist who has performed for royalty in Malaysia and Thailand and has been a soloist with eight orchestras, will provide musical entertainment on broken violins, Coffey said. Dillingham told The Oklahoman in 2013 that he was inspired to play broken instruments after visiting an orphanage in Togo and noting the similarity between instruments deemed not worth fixing and people on the margins of society, including orphans and people living with mental illnesses or substance use disorders.

“I was seeing how it's easy to just sort of toss people aside, that there's no hope for them,” he said. “They are broken beyond repair. What is the value of this person to society? Too often, we just put them in a box and ignore them.”

Coffey said she hopes the event will inspire people who are living with mental illnesses. Dillingham's routine with a damaged violin is a metaphor for working around struggles, she said.

“He takes a broken violin, and he can make it make music,” she said. “It relays the message that there is hope for people.”

People with mental illnesses will speak, as will some family members supporting a loved one who is ill, Coffey said. They hope to educate the public that mental illnesses are caused by problems in the brain, and deserve the same treatment as problems with any other organ, she said.

“We want to bring awareness about mental illness, that it is a medical condition,” she said. “It's still surrounded by a huge amount of stigma.”

Edmond police officers who have received training to deal with mental health crises also will speak, and NAMI will share information about support groups and other help it can provide, Coffey said. Hopefully, people who attend will remember that information, even if they don't need it right now, she said.

“Almost everyone in America has a connection (to mental illness), but most people want to ignore it,” she said.

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›