Nourish your mental illness awareness at Food for Thought

September 26, 2016 CONRIC PR

Miss District of Columbia Haely Jardas returns to her hometown of Fort Myers for a special engagement as keynote speaker at the annual Mental Health Educational Symposium, presented by HOPE Clubhouse of Southwest Florida. Tickets are now available for “Food for Thought: Feeding the Mind, Body and Soul” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater, 1380 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers.

“Food for Thought” is a continuation of a theme that grows from HOPE Clubhouse’s new edible Garden of Hope, which promotes better nutrition and healthier lifestyles for adults living with mental illness.

A Cypress Lake High School grad, Jardas was inspired by her own experience with generalized anxiety disorder to make “Mental Health Matters” her winning platform for the Miss District of Columbia pageant. She recently spoke on the topic of mental health at a TEDx event hosted by Howard University. She will present an engaging and frank discussion on body image issues encountered in the pageant world and as an actress, which can manifest as eating disorders such as anorexia, and the importance of good nutrition for the proper functioning of the mind.

Additional speakers will include the Honorable Andrew H. Swett, 20th Judicial Circuit Judge and founder of the Lee County Mental Health Court, respected Fort Myers psychiatrist Dr. Omar Rieche, and Hope Clubhouse member Cindy Bishop. This panel of local advocates will discuss the state of mental health care in Southwest Florida, and what can be done to improve the quality of life of people living with mental illness. Topics will include food and drug addiction, obesity and a holistic approach to diet, exercise and stress.

Those who suffer with mental illness (typically referring to individuals as “mentally ill” is rather taboo today. I recently read an article in NAMI about it – especially since many who carry an illness can manage it well, take meds and live productive lives – just an FYI) are disproportionately affected by food insecurity, which in turn is a contributing factor in the development of disease. Meanwhile, food addiction is only beginning to be treated as a serious area of scientific study, and is thought to be a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Frank discussion of eating disorders is often discouraged by society, leaving those affected to suffer in silence. Disorders such as anxiety and depression are common, and highly treatable. Advocates like Jardas encourage the public to reach out to lawmakers at all levels to make mental health a legislative priority.

News-Press executive editor and vice president of content Cindy McCurry-Ross will serve as emcee for “Food for Thought.” Continuing Education Units can be earned for qualifying professionals in attendance. The general public is invited to attend. Tickets are $50, including a buffet lunch, and can be purchased at or by calling (239) 267-1777. Sponsor a HOPE Clubhouse member for $50.

Scott White Advisors is the Title Sponsor. Sponsors include The News-Press Media Group; Gavin’s ACE; Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre; FineMark National Bank & Trust; NAMI Collier; NAMI Lee, Charlotte & Hendry Counties; Beasley Media Group, Inc.; CONRIC PR & Marketing; Sovereign Health; Grady-White Boats; Lee Memorial Health System; Fish Tale Boats; SalusCare; William and Sharon Dardy; Dr. Omar Rieche; Dottie and George Pacharis; Miller & Lucas Families; Carolyn Cusak; and John & Kathryne A. King.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. For more information, contact James Wineinger at (239) 900-4200 or email

About Hope Clubhouse

Hope Clubhouse is a community of support for adults living with a mental illness in Southwest Florida providing opportunities for meaningful work, education, friendships and access to housing. Hope Clubhouse is a 501(c)3 organization located at 3602 Broadway Ave., Fort Myers, Florida 33907. Call (239) 267-1777 or visit to donate or for more information.

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