NAMI - Athens, An Affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Ohio








Ohio Department of Mental Health CEO

Recognizes The Ridges Cemeteries Project


Early in 2009, Ohio Department of Mental Health CEO Sandy Stephenson visited Athens to hold a public meeting to explain the current budgetary and policy problems related to mental health.  While here, she asked to see the Ridges Cemeteries Project. Committee members Greg Polzer and Tom Walker then led her and others on a quick tour.  At the cemeteries, Greg and Tom pointed out several graves of special interest. 


Director Stephenson seemed particularly captivated by the story of Viola Rapp and Walker subsequently sent her photos of Viola's descendants visiting her grave for the first time ever, and suggested she visit this website and Viola's story to learn more.  After doing so, she subsequently wrote, commenting that, "This is incredible history.  I love the look of joy on the faces of Viola's descendants."

In the ensuing month Stephenson and NAMI Ohio CEO James Mauro began discussing the issue of mental hospital cemetery restoration throughout the state as a way of fighting stigma.  Most such cemeteries are in terrible shape - far worse than ours - and, so far, only one other committee - that of Toledo - is working to rectify this situation.

Acknowledging this problem, the ODMH did an inventory and produced a power point to be used as the basis for further discussion.  Viola Rapp is featured in the Athens section of that power point.


So it was great to see the interest that both ODMH and NAMI Ohio had taken in our project.  But it didn't stop there.  In May, Director Stephenson sent our committee a letter stating:


The work that you are conducting to restore the dignity of those grounds has not gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated by all those who understand the struggles and stigma caused by mental illness.  You and your organization are to be commended for the recognition and hard work you are contributing in restoring the cemetery grounds.

In recognition of your work, and in celebration of May as Mental Health Month, the Department would like to contribute $5,000 to NAMI of Athens County for your continued efforts in improving the cemeteries grounds and reclamation work.

It should be noted that this $5,000 is above and beyond the $5,000 that ODMH started giving NAMI annually, and in perpetuity, for work on the Cemeteries several years ago. So 2009 has been an especially good year for our project!


(Director Stephenson's visit inspired another reclamation project in Ohio.  Read about the effort in Columbus, here.)


Contact NAMI - Athens
Appalachian Behavioral Health Care, 100 Hospital Drive, Athens OH 45701
Phone: 740-593-7424   e-mail: