There is no immunity
Members and supporters of the Tri-County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness gathered recently for their annual dinner. There was smiling, laughter and fellowship. But, when they got down to talking about the needs the mentally ill in Peoria and beyond, there was little to be festive about.
The 2005 study “Answering the Call,” by the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Illinois, found almost one million Illinois citizens suffer from a serious mental disorder in any given year. The study found the direct and indirect costs of mental illness total more than $2.6 billion a year for the state.
That means, everyone, whether touched directly by mental illness or not, is impacted.
Nearly 50 percent of all people with a severe mental illness do not receive the treatment they need.
“In Illinois and other states, people with severe mental illnesses face many barriers to treatment, such as inadequate health insurance coverage, stigma, financial disincentives to treatment and a lack of qualified mental health professionals,” the study found.
That creates a human and financial crisis, both of which are preventable with education and advocacy. Peoria appears to be leading the way in that regard.
People like State Rep. David Leitch (R-Peoria), a long-timr legislative advocate; Dr. Ryan Finkenbine, working on a program to bring homegrown psychiatrists to Peoria with Methodist Medical Center; and citizen advocates like Diane Geiss of NAMI and Tony Ardis and Cindy Ardis-Jenkins of the Tim Ardis Foundation for Hope are leading the way.
But, even with all the efforts of locsl advocates, we are only putting a dent in the needs.
“Awareness is a huge step. But, we have to go beyond that to education,” Jenkins said. “I think we have done a good job. But, there is no such thing as enough awareness and education.”
She is so right. But, her brother, Tony Ardis, makes a valid point as well. The two know about mental illness and tragedy. They lost their bother, Tim, seven years ago to clinical depression when he committed suicide.
“I don’t fault those who don’t think about it or care,” Ardis said. “Prior to our loss, I didn’t. I hope we’re provoking caring. The burden is on us.”
Ardis is right. The primary burden is on the advocates. But, education and caring require a messenger and a receiver. Abraham Lincoln made that clear by saying, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”