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Our View: Shine light on mental illness, stigmas

Published: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

It’s your friend with the unpredictable mood swings, or the loved one who struggles daily just to get out of bed.

It’s likely that person, someone you love, has a mental illness

The U.S. Surgeon General’s office estimates about 20 percent of the population is dealing with a mental illness; that would be about 60,000 McHenry County residents.

But the hurdles to treatment are heartbreaking – and often unnecessary.

There were 40 suicides in the county last year, and 13 already this year. A stigma exists against those with a mental illness. Cost can impede some from getting help. State funding cuts have decreased available treatment options.

The collapse in June 2012 of Family Service is still causing ripple effects. Other agencies admirably stepped up to provide care, but it’s impossible to gauge how many more haven’t sought help – and either may wait until a crisis hits, or worse, never ask.

There are treatment options in McHenry County, including Centegra Specialty Hospital in Woodstock, Horizons, Pioneer Center for Human Services, Rosecrance and the circuit court’s mental health court, which annually help thousands by providing therapy, inpatient care, medication or support networks.

There are thousands of people who successfully manage their illnesses with grace, often with help from dedicated professionals who find ways to make every penny count as they selflessly provide compassionate care.

Much of the funding for mental health is dependent on solving Illinois’ nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability. For years, lawmakers have demonstrated their incompetence in making tough decisions on pensions. Their inability to tackle it has and will continue to negatively affect the most vulnerable populations, and we continue to implore them to get their act together. The budget for mental health care is to remain flat for the coming fiscal year. Not ideal, but it is better than cuts.

More money is needed, especially for early treatment, deemed the most effective way to treat mental illness. Locally, the McHenry County Mental Health Board needs to better spend the money it gets from local taxpayers. Of the $14.9 million it spent in 2012, 17 percent was on administrative costs.

And the societal aspects also must be addressed. The aim of the three-day mental health series that wraps up today in the Northwest Herald was to shine a light on mental-health issues in our communities.

The stigma and shame need to be eradicated. We must understand these are treatable conditions, talk openly about mental illness, and support those seeking treatment.

We couldn’t agree more with President Barack Obama’s assessment Monday that it was time to bring mental illness “out of the shadows.”

How will you do your part?

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