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Understanding mental illness is key to winning the fight (edit)

The Monroe Evening News - 6/19/2018

It is, perhaps, one of the most important issues facing society today — a condition blamed for mass murders, shocking suicides and countless misunderstood decisions with devastating consequences, such as substance abuse and homelessness.

So the time has come for everyone to seriously and immediately address mental health issues. There is no need to hide and there is no need look away. We must be sympathetic and compassionate and supportive of those who suffer.

In recent weeks, two events have occurred that brought mental health issues to the forefront. Last week the Monroe County Mental Health Recovery Court graduated its first two participants. One of those, Patricia L. Evans, a 42-year-old Monroe woman diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders, said it was the happiest she had been in 20 years.

First District Judge Jack Vitale presides over mental health court, a program designed to help those suffering from issues that have led to criminal behavior. Instead of punishing the individual, the program treats the person for up to 18 months.

Participants must stay sober, perform community work assignments and routinely attend monthly mental health and other appointments. They also must actively search for work. Miss Evans said at her graduation ceremony that during her time in mental health court, she stayed sober, found a place to live, improved family relationships and completed more than 100 community service hours.

Then, last month in downtown Monroe, a rally was held to bring mental health literally into the streets. The idea by about 50 people was to try to break the stigma attached to the conditions so others aren’t afraid to discuss potentially devastating issues like depression or bipolar disorders.

The rally was bravely coordinated by Kathleen Geftos-Felch, 31, of Monroe, who is battling post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. She said she has struggled with mental health issues her entire life and wasn’t afraid to let the world know about it.

The World Health Organization has reported that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders during their lives. About 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

There is no question mental health disorders have been involved with some of the most notorious and shocking events in our world, both past and present. And those who suffer from such disorders are all around us.

For many it’s time to be brave, like those who sought treatment by participating in mental health court or stood on the streets to let others like them know they are not alone and do not need to suffer in silence.

And congratulations to Judge Vitale and the scores of others in Monroe who have dedicated themselves to helping others with disorders. Their work led to one person becoming the happiest she’s been in 20 years. Let’s hope that type of success continues.


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