ROCKFORD – The Stars of Light, a Rockford theatrical troupe whose mission is to educate the public about mental health issues, has a new home base with NAMI Northern Illinois, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as of Feb. 15, 2013.
The troupe, founded almost 20 years ago at the Janet Wattles Center, has been affiliated with Rosecrance since the agencies merged in 2011. Transfer of the theater troupe from Rosecrance to NAMI Northern Illinois will give NAMI a new way to reach out to the community to educate on mental health.
Stars’ founding director Steven Vrtol III, a well-known local actor, will continue as director of the Stars of Light. Rosecrance will be a supporting sponsor for group.
“We are looking at this as an exciting opportunity to expand and grow the reach of our local affiliate,” said Jean Morrow, president of NAMI Northern Illinois. “This is the first step in a new direction in community outreach for us and we are thrilled.”
Since its inception, Stars of Light has offered individuals living with mental illness, their family members and friends an opportunity to participate in the arts as a way of fighting stigma and furthering understanding about mental health issues.
Through the years, members of the group have presented 232 performances to more than 8,000 people, mostly at schools in the region and to community groups. Stars of Light members have participated in crisis intervention training with area law enforcement officers who take the course to learn how to respond in crisis situations that involve someone with mental illness.
“We are delighted to continue to help sponsor the Stars of Light as they begin this new chapter with NAMI Northern Illinois, which already does so much to educate about mental illness,” said Rosecrance President/CEO Philip W. Eaton. “Through the creative arts, the Stars have been able to bring these issues out into the open and enlighten the community about the help and hope that is available.”
Through the years, the group has produced numerous radio shows for Northern Public Radio, WNIJ, on mental health topics, along with several videos on such topics as recovery, employment, depression screening and suicide prevention.
The group has received national recognition for its work. The American Association of Behavioral Healthcare (AABH) gave Stars an award in 1998 for efforts to education that reduces stigma about mental illness. The group also has received the JC Penney Golden Rule Award. Two years ago, the Stars were invited to perform at the national conference of NAMI in Chicago.
Stars of Light will operate out of the offices of Stepping Stones on North Main Street, which is where NAMI Northern Illinois has its office.