GENEVA – Lachell Jeffries knows full well the battles that someone with mental illness goes through.
Her biological son has been diagnosed with having bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies.
“My son had three major suicide attempts while in high school,” Jeffries said Wednesday at a news conference at TriCity Family Services sponsored by the Kane County Mental Health Council. “He was off his medications and was so depressed.”
The news conference was held in conjunction with Mental Illness Awareness Week. Jeffries said her son is doing much better these days.
“Today my son is a high school graduate, and he wants to go to college,” Jeffries said. “He has been stable and taking his medication daily.”
And she said her son’s bipolar disorder doesn’t define him.
“Individuals with brain disorders are human beings, they are not an illness,” Jeffries said. “There is hope as long as he is stable and has support.”
Phyllis Graeser, board president for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, DeKalb, Kane-South and Kendall counties’ chapter, said the stigma attached to those people with mental illness must be erased so people will feel comfortable in seeking treatment.
“We all know that treatment works,” she said. “We need to wipe out the stigma.”
Jeffries herself helps families dealing with mental illness through the NAMI Kane County North chapter.
Tom Mitchell, a support group leader in the NAMI DKK chapter and a peer counselor for the Association for Individual Development, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 30 years ago.
“I’ve come a long way since then,” he said. “I know that recovery is possible through treatment and support. I have been able to raise two sons and I have a career in mental health. I’m able to share my experiences with the people I am working with.”
Susie Piasecki, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder and works with the NAMI DKK chapter, said she was heartened after she heard that leaders such as President Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi struggled with mental illness.
“It helped me to see that mental illness doesn’t discriminate and that I can contribute to this world in some way,” she said.
More information about NAMI DKK is available by going to www.namidkk.org.