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New hangout space for people struggling with mental health ready to open its doors

The drop-in center will fully open in Rock Hill when it's safe to gather in groups. It's where people living with mental health challenges can be themselves.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Mental health advocates say the pandemic has been difficult for people living with mental health challenges. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Piedmont Tri-County in South Carolina has been helping people struggling with mental illness for decades.

Their newest venture is a direct result of people suffering in isolation. 

"Our numbers have definitely gone up. More people are reporting mental illness," shared Kati Durkee, who works for NAMI Piedmont Tri-County. "There's a spike in anxiety, a spike in depression." 

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This is why Durkee and the team at NAMI Piedmont Tri-County are launching a drop-in center. The center is a place people struggling with mental challenges can come to rest, participate in classes or, on occasion, join a party -- a place where they can spend time and be themselves. 

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"The pandemic has been, in some ways really difficult, because what we lost was our ability to have a place to do our support groups, to do our meetings to do our classes," CJ O'Lenick, a NAMI board member who also lives with mental challenges, said. 

O'Lenick says he understands the struggles of isolation and shares his story so that it would others who are struggling.

"Having a space where you can be yourself and communicate with people who are feeling the same way," he said. "It makes you feel like you're not alone." 

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The project was born during the pandemic, and though it's ready to open, it's now having to wait until it's completely safe to gather in groups before it launches. NAMI is also looking for volunteers to help out in the center. 

For more information on joining the drop-in center or on volunteering, visit www.namipiedmont.org.

Contact Indira Eskieva at ieskieva@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.