League of Women Voters hosting mental health awareness event


Presentation scheduled for Thursday at Rochelle City Hall

ROCHELLE –  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, otherwise known as NAMI, one in five individuals or families experience issues related to mental illness. In an effort to help those affected, the League of Women Voters will be hosting a mental health initiative event at Rochelle City Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21. at 7 p.m.

The event will include presentations from three different individuals who are involved in helping those affected by either mental illness or substance abuse. The individuals presenting at the event are Sgt. Michael Shane Leighton, a detective in the Whiteside County Sheriff’s office, who are very active in training their officers in Crisis intervention; Patrick Phelan, president and CEO of Sinnissippii Centers Inc. in Rochelle; and Tracy Brooks, the president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Sauk Valley Affiliate.

The main goal of the event is to bring awareness to the need for help and services in rural areas.

“I will be talking about some of the lack of services that we do not have out here in rural areas such as inpatient treatment programs or crisis bed when an individual is psychotic or just extremely depressed and needs hospitalization,” said Brooks.

She will also be discussing some of the different laws and roadblocks standing in the way of getting those services even if someone wanted to start providing them.

While Brooks will be discussing the need to improve and expand services that are offered in rural areas, Phelan will be discussing the programming and new initiatives that are currently available at Sinnissippi Centers as well as plans for the future.

“I will be talking about some of the new initiatives that we have going on and then about the political and economic climate for behavioral health right now,” said Phelan. “As well as what we see as future goals, what our next steps are and where we will be in six months to a year from now.”

Sinnissippi Centers in Rochelle currently serves the four surrounding counties: Ogle, Lee, Carroll and Whiteside.

Some of the programs and services that Sinnissippi currently offers include 24/7 crisis care, residential care, mental health care, substance abuse care and even some less traditional care such as working with high risk parents and expecting mothers.

All of the programs offered through Sinnissippi Centers focuses around the main goal of giving people more hope and joy in their lives.

“Our main goal on a more basic level is to provide for whatever the needs are of those with addictions, mental illness, histories of trauma and other challenges in our community. Sort of whenever and wherever they need those,” Said Phelan.

Brooks has given many presentations such as this before in different places including Rochelle and has a very personal connection with mental illness as her son was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder 12 years ago. He struggled with depression for nearly six years before finding the right combination of medicines and treatment.  He is now a successful college student working in a hospital, with hopes to get into medical school. He will also be presenting for the first time at the event.

They will be discussing the importance of noticing signs and symptoms in order to help catch and treat the condition early on.

“The sooner you get treatment, the easier it is to get the illness under control and you are going to have a better outcome,” explained brooks. “And like a lot of illnesses, if you don’t get treatment it gets worse.”

Many times, parents pass off early symptoms of mental illness as kids just acting out.

The event is open and free to anyone who would like to attend. During the event, the presenters will also be speaking about the many programs and services that they do offer to people in need. NAMI offers many different programs such as family programs, family support groups and inner voice programs just to name a few.

NAMI would like people to know that any of their programs are free to the individuals or families in need.

“There are never any costs for any of our programs, we run completely on donations and one fundraiser a year. We are the largest non-profit grassroots organization in the country,” added Brooks.

If anyone would like to donate, they can do so online by visiting namiillinois.org and click on the Sauk Area Affiliate.  

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