That’s one of the solutions for dealing with mental illness, according to Liza Long, a mental health advocate and mother of a child with a bi-polar disorder. The speaker at Thursday’s 16th annual Women’s Fund luncheon said we need to respond to someone having a family member hospitalized for a mental illness in the same way we react to other physical illnesses.
When someone is sick, we call an ambulance. When they experience an episode of mental illness, Long said, we call the police.
Long pointed out that 4,600 children die from suicide every year in the United States, 10 times as many as die from childhood leukemia. Her own son, at age 4, was undiagnosed and suffering. “Mom, I don’t want to be anymore,” he told her.
The recently released Fox Cities Leading Indicators for Excellence (LIFE) Study shows teen suicide is a greater problem here than most places. Teens surveyed at their schools said they considered suicide and attempted suicide at higher rates than the state and national averages. The Women’s Fund, a supporting organization within the Community Foundation, chose to shine a light on the topic at its luncheon, attended by more than 1,000 people, mostly women. And I mean that literally.
Attendees were given small flashlights. With the house lights dimmed, those who have experienced mental illness were asked to turn on their lights. A substantial glow lit up the edges of the banquet room. People who have friends or family struggling with mental illness lit up half the room. The remaining, asked if they want to help address the problem, made the light complete.