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


The Ridges Cemetery Project

NAMI Athens is also involved with other groups and organizations in a major effort to restore, beautify and demystify the three mental health graveyards located on the grounds of the old psychiatric hospital complex on the Ridges. Prior to the onset of this project, the graveyards were in poor repair, with many graves abandoned to brush and woods and hundreds of stones uprooted and broken.

[Click for a related story on how the graveyard restoration project has affected the family of one former patient, Viola Rapp.]

In addition, in the fall of 2000, Fox Family Channel had featured "The Ghosts of Athens"- notably those in its Ridges cemeteries - in its program, "World's Scariest Places." To combat this nonsense and restore respect to the nearly 2000 former mental patients buried in the three cemeteries, the Ridges Cemeteries Committee, made up of representatives of various public entities, Ohio University, the Gathering Place, the Civilian Conservation Corps, NAMI, etc. was created under the leadership of Bill Dunlap at the 317 Board.

[Click for a related story of how Civil War Veteran Nathan Littler finally received the respect and recognition due]

Since then, the Committee, now headed by a member of the NAMI Board of Directors, has overseen an impressive multi-entity effort to restore the cemeteries themselves and to build a 1.3 mile Nature Walk among the cemeteries.   In addition, then State Representative Jimmy Stewart helped our committee pass a bill making public the names of all persons buried with only numbered stones. (Visit the Directory.)

As part of the Walk, an old pond at the base of one cemetery has been rebuilt. The purpose of the Walk is to shine light, metaphorically speaking, on these beautiful grounds with their remarkably abundant wildlife and to make them a place of healthy, respectful recreation.

[Click for the new Nature Walk Guide and for a story and pictures about the 2012 Walk.]

The Walk and Pond involved the labor of the Outbackers and two types of classes from Hocking College, two generous grants from the O'Bleness Foundation, in kind and monetary support from Hocking College, Ohio University, NAMI Athens, and the work of many volunteers.

In 2008, NAMI, the Ohio department of Mental Health, and the 317 Board contracted an excavating firm to do improvements in the walk to prevent erosion and make its surface more permanent.

[Click for a related story and pictures
of the beautiful results]



More stories:


Want to hear more about the Ridges and the Cemetery Project?

Click the links below to listen to a one hour Conversations from Studio B interview of NAMI member Tom Walker, by WOUB library archivist Doug McCabe (Oct 2008):

First half hour

Second half hour


Projects: Conferences & Meetings | CIT / Jail Diversion program| Ridges Cemeteries Project, | Athens Photographic Project | NAMI/Habitat Housing | Lobbying

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