About 60 people gathered at the PLT#3 6-12 Campus Commons on Thursday night to hear a presentation from the local branch of National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). The presentation sponsored by United Christians of Prophetstown emphasized the need for the public to be aware of the symptoms of and treatment for mental illness.
The Sauk Area branch of NAMI along with the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department provided information about the many services that are available to those suffering from the disease.
Chapter President Traci Brooks shared her personal experience of her son’s battle with mental illness that began during his sophomore year of high school. She emphasized that mental illness greatly affects not only the individual but family and friends as well. “You have to hang on to hope,” was the message she left with the audience after describing the many year struggle her family endured.
Her son Chad shared his personal experience of going from a happy successful high school student to spending nearly six years living in his parent’s basement as he struggled to find treatment that was effective. “It is possible to get well,” he said adding that he is currently in college and plans on attending medical school.
Among some of the statistics presented: one in five teens have some form of mental illness, 50% of those affected will show symptoms by age 14, and less than half will seek treatment. One of the more common illnesses is depression, which if left untreated can lead to suicide, the third leading cause of death among teenagers.
Whiteside County Sheriff John Booker has been a strong advocate of finding ways to help individuals suffering from mental illness that his officers deal with on a regular basis. His advocacy comes from the loss of a close friend in college and a niece to suicide.
Since taking over the department he has worked to find alternative ways to handle individuals that suffer from mental illness or drug addiction. His office has teamed up with the Whiteside County Health Department to provide treatment to individuals if they are held in the county jail.
The department will also transport individuals to treatment facilities if needed. “I’ve learned a lot from the people that I have transported” he said. His department is also part of the Safe Passage Program, which helps individuals who asked law enforcement for help with their addiction to find appropriate treatment. “Locking up people is not the answer when it comes to mental illness,” said the sheriff.
Attendees were advised spread the word about the severity and prevalence of mental illness and the many services that are available to those who may need them. NAMI