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Letter: Family Services Inc. deserves credit for work


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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Annette Kleinhenz

Columbus

Bartholomew County residents take pride in innovation. Since 1996, when Healthy Communities began regularly assessing our community’s health, we have been very successful in multiple efforts addressing the county’s needs and targeting efforts for improvement. However, we are only recently taking on mental illness, and Family Service Inc. is signing on.

Based on a county population of about 75,000, and knowing that one in four people has a diagnosable mental illness in a given year, according to National Institute of Mental Health, there are around 18,750 people living in our community with mental illness right now.

About 7,500 residents suffer with extreme brain disorders, a severe mental illness that disrupts their lives and the lives of their family and friends.

Family Service Inc. offers services to people and families struggling with mental illness in our community and has decided to promote our community’s mental health by dedicating its annual Got Family? run/walk to “Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness: Not Broken, Not Worthless, Not Alone.”

I am personally familiar with the courage it takes to manage a brain disorder or assist a loved one with a severe mental illness as my oldest son received a diagnosis of bipolar and schizophrenia in 2002. As he fought the most difficult battle of his life, Caleb repeatedly referred to his family as the most valuable tool he had in managing his illness.

I will never forget sitting in a room with Caleb having just found out he had schizo-affective disorder. I had some psychology classes in college, but I had no idea how devastating mental illness could be. He was a hero to his siblings and had brought my husband and me great joy. This gifted, witty, charming, loving young man with all of the promise of a bright future would now face the most difficult challenge as he was losing the ability to control how he perceived and processed thoughts with constant voices tormenting him along the way.

When asked that day what his greatest concern was, Caleb responded after much thought, “I am worried that I will not be able to show my family how much I love and appreciate them.” Surprisingly, and most unusual for people with these types of brain disorders, he became an avid hugger, as he could pull off giving the most genuinely appreciative hug to anyone. Caleb’s bear hugs never failed to communicate his love and appreciation.

As a mental health advocate, I see the difference that a supportive family can make in the life of someone managing a severe mental illness, whether it be their immediate family, their church family or their community. According to our 2013 community health assessment, psychosis (666) was second only to “normal newborn” care (837) as reasons for local hospital admissions. This is likely why our current health assessment recommends that mental health be an area of focus to be addressed in our community. Kudos to Family Service Inc. for taking on this challenge. Consider yourself hugged.

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