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Treating mental illness

Waupaca program seeks to remove stigmas

By Angie Landsverk

“Mental Health Treatment Without Shame or Blame” is the title of a community presentation at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at Waupaca High School.

Dr. Adam Strassberg, an outpatient psychiatrist, is the speaker for the event, which is free and open to the public.

His presentation is being sponsored by the Waupaca County Suicide Prevention Coalition, with funding from the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region Inc., Ministry Health Care and Theda Care.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and this is the second consecutive year the coalition is sponsoring a presentation.

Strassberg has a private practice based in Palo Alto, California, and an oped piece he wrote locally there last spring titled “Keep Calm and Parent On” is the reason why he is speaking this month in Waupaca.

After he wrote that piece, it went viral with more than 250,000 hits worldwide, he said.

“So lots of people wanted to talk to me,” Strassberg explained during a telephone interview with the Waupaca County Post.

Among the first people to contact him was Elissa Stults.

She is a local licensed marriage and family therapist whose role at Ministry Medical Group is a behavioral health specialist.

Stults is a member of the Waupaca County Suicide Prevention Coalition and recalled how a member of the coalition said, “Let’s try to get him,” after they shared the oped piece Strassberg had written.

Visit www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2015/03/16/guest-opinion-keep-calm-and-parent-on to read the article Strassberg addressed to the parents of teenagers.

Strassberg has been working as a psychiatrist for about 15 years and is the father of two teenagers who are both in high school.

“Palo Alto is a wonderful place,” he said. “But we also have a high suicide rate. We have had two major clusters of suicides.”

In the last 13 years, 19 teens completed suicide in the community, he said.

“This community has three times the national rate,” Strassberg said.

In his private practice, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, he sees people who are parents, teachers, engineers.

“Mostly I see people that look like me,” Strassberg said.

In addition to his practice, he also talks to local high school students about careers in mental health because there is a shortage of people in the field.

When he visits Waupaca on Sept. 21, he will speak to the high school’s health careers classes about careers in mental health, said Sue Woolliff, the school district’s nurse who is also a member of the Waupaca County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

She said students from area school districts will also be invited to that presentation.

It will take place during the school day.

Members of the coalition want those who feel they need help to know where they can find it.

In 2014, there were 10 suicides in Waupaca County, and there have been four in 2015, they said.

Strassberg said his community presentation will include the following points:

• Mental illness is common.

• Information about how psychiatrists define and treat mental illness.

• How mental illness is stigmatized.

He said television often makes stereotypes about people who have mental illness.

“The idea is we don’t talk openly in our community, in our home,” about it, Strassberg said.

He said not talking openly about it is a “tremendous disservice” to teens.

Many teens and adults suffer needlessly because of the stigma associated with mental illness, he said.

Strassberg said his presentation will also include statistics about suicide and general recommendations and practical advice to the parents of teens.

“It’s for everyone in the community,” he said.

People may visit www.doctorstrassberg.com for more information about him.

He plans to have an open question-and-answer period after his presentation.

The local coalition will also distribute handouts about local mental health services.

Those who need help and support may text “Hopeline” to 839863.

If someone knows a person who is suicidal, that person may call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 in an emergency.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/WaupacaCountySuicidePreventionCoalition or www.preventsuicidewi.org.

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