Raising Awareness For Mental Illness

 

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A mental health condition affects one in five people in the United States. The condition usually comes with a negative stigma about it. A grassroots organization is looking to change that, bringing light to the darkness of mental illness.

“I take medicine, I see a counselor, I see a case worker, I have a psychiatrist and I’m not afraid to tell anybody,” says Jennifer Miklos.

Since 2004 Miklos has been diagnosed with a mental illness.

“I have severe recurring depression, generalized anxiety, PTSD and borderline personality disorder,” explains Miklos.

But she’s been living with the symptoms for decades before then.

“I do not have any family support, which is the hardest,” says Miklos. “My family likes to just brush it under the rug.”

“There’s a stigma about it being your own fault that you have a mental illness, that you’re weak or lazy or that you don’t want to get better,” adds Jerry Hiebert.

Hiebert, too, waited to seek treatment, until it was almost too late.

“I have major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and Asperger’s,” he says. “In 2004 I had a suicide attempt.”

Both Hiebert and Miklos are now involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Sioux Falls branch, which is a nonprofit that advocates for those with a mental illness, and their family members.

Miklos sits on the board, and Hiebert is the board secretary.

“Life is much better now,” says Hiebert.

Experiencing how hard it can be, the two want others to know there is hope and support within the community.

“It’s treatable and you can recover from it, so what we really want is for people to see a counselor or a doctor sooner rather than later,” says Hiebert.

He says he’s seen the illness take the lives of too many people.

“Unfortunately 40,000 [people who are diagnosed] every year are dying from suicide, and over a million attempt it,” he explains. “When it happens there’s a lot of shame and guilt even for the family and there shouldn’t be. They died from another disease like a heart attack, and the disease caught up with them. It can be fatal.”

Walking side by side with candles in their hands, this group is making sure the awareness is being seen.

The candlelight vigil kicked off Mental Illness Awareness week in Sioux Falls. It continues through October 7.

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