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Event series focuses on mental illness

Mission of Hope, NAMI partner to break stigma

By Scott Bellile

Waupaca County’s resource homeless shelter hopes to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness by offering the public free educational outreach this fall.

The Mission of Hope House, 520 N. Shawano St., New London, is partnering with NAMI Fox Valley, the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to host three monthly classes at the MOHH building.

The class lineup is:

• Thursday, Oct. 4: “Breaking the Mental Illness Stigma.”

• Thursday, Nov. 8: “Is it Teenage Moodiness or More?”

• Thursday, Dec. 6: “Stress Free Holiday Tips: Care for the Caregiver.”

MOHH co-founder Lori Prahl said that together with NAMI Fox Valley, the homeless shelter will offer mental health outreach aimed at preventing county residents from needing to stay the night at MOHH. MOHH is slated to open later this year.

The Mission of Hope House homeless shelter in New London.
Scott Bellile Photo

More than half of people utilizing Fox Valley area homeless shelters disclose they have a mental illness, so NAMI is proud to partner with MOHH to help break the mental illness stigma, according to Ann Jadin, Waupaca area programming coordinator for NAMI Fox Valley.

Prahl and Jadin stress the three events are for everybody regardless of if they experience mental illness firsthand.

To register for a class, call MOHH at 920-249-4705 or email [email protected].


Breaking the stigma
In the Oct. 4 class, “Breaking the Mental Illness Stigma,” youth and adult speakers with mental illness will share their challenges, accomplishments and tips to live well in recovery.

“The key is to break stigma,” Jadin said. “The idea is to get people to help and help them know that it’s OK. Often people are alone, they feel isolated and they feel like no one else is going through this.”

Once people with mental illness realize they are not alone, they might then seek treatment.

“I always compare it to living with cancer: The earlier you get treatment, the prognosis is favorable. That goes with mental illness,” Jadin said.

As for people without a mental illness, hearing directly from those who have one is “the No. 1 way of breaking stigma,” according to Jadin. She said 90 percent of people with mental illnesses live well with their conditions, but too often people only notice the 10 percent who do not.

“If you meet someone, it can break down all the stereotypes that people have,” Jadin said.


Mental illness in youth
NAMI will dive into how mental illness affects children at the Nov. 8 event, “Is it Teenage Moodiness or More?”

“That really is like our Youth Mental Illness 101,” Jadin said.

The class, which is commonly presented at area high schools, will explore seven mental health conditions and their symptoms.

Symptoms often appear during adolescence but are not diagnosed until later in life. Jadin said spotting the signs early is crucial because suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in Wisconsin, and 90 percent of children who die by suicide had a mental illness.


Prepping caregivers for Christmas
In time for the Christmas season, on Dec. 6 NAMI will offer tips to the caregivers of people with mental illness in “Stress Free Holiday Tips: Care for the Caregiver.”

“We know that it’s pretty difficult [for the caregiver] to take care of yourself in crisis, and then you put on top of that all the demands of the holidays, what the expectations are or how holidays trigger people into a relapse with their mental illness,” Jadin said. “So really, the session is about, ‘What can I do to help myself in order to stay well so that I can be there for my loved one in this busy, busy season?’”

Caregivers often see mental illness as a “‘no casserole’ disorder.” When a person suffers from a physical ailment like a heart attack or cancer, community members offer support by sending the family a casserole or a card. When the loved one exhibits a mental condition, those gestures are rare, Jadin said.

Attendees will also learn what resources are available to them and what they can do if their loved one refuses to seek professional help.

For the 10 percent of people who struggle to live with their mental illness, a common symptom is believing everybody has a problem but themselves, Jadin said. This lack of insight explains why some people living with mental health conditions do not seek treatment, which often frustrates family members.

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