Living with Mental Illness in Central Illinois: A WILL News Special
In this hour-long program on mental illness, Illinois Public Media reporters look at some of the barriers to accessing regular care, efforts to improve mental health care for children and college students, and the ongoing battle against stigma.
HOST: Scott Cameron
PRODUCERS: Sean Powers and Lindsey Moon
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: Ryan Weber and Amanda Tugade
More on this series: http://will.illinois.edu/mentalhealth
Colleges and universities continue to see growing demand for mental health services. But national data published this month shows budgets and staffing levels for most campus counseling centers are not keeping up with that demand.
Joey Ramp gets uncomfortable in large crowds of people. New places also make her uneasy. It’s her service dog, Theo, and her highly regimented schedule that helps her handle her anxiety and cope with her post-traumatic stress disorder. Theo is always with her, and since her disability isn’t visible, she says people are curious. Sometimes they ask; sometimes they don’t. “Most often, when people ask and I say I have PTSD, people want to thank me for my service.”
That makes it awkward for Ramp to explain that she never served in the military.
Federal data shows that a smaller percentage of children in the state in need of mental health care get it compared to the national average. Health care professionals say part of the reason for that is a lack of resources, and parents not knowing where to turn for help.
Robert Russell enlisted in the Army shortly after starting college at the University of Illinois in the late 1960’s because he needed the money. A few years later, when he was home on leave from Berlin, Germany, he met his wife Ann on a blind date. After just a few evenings together, they decided to marry, and have stayed married for the last 42 years.
Rich and Holly Brandt are a married couple in the Champaign County town of St. Joseph. Both were diagnosed with a mental illness. They dedicate their lives to raising awareness, and they refuse to give in to stigma or labels.
Harry Wolin manages Mason District Hospital in Havana, Illinois, one of many clinics in Illinois that provide care to medically underserved areas. The hospital has been treating patients via telepsychiatry, when a patient meets with a doctor via a computer screen, for about four years now. Wolin says they started offering appointments that way after the county mental health center shut down due to lack of funding.
“If we wouldn’t have started offering this service, many of our patients would have had to travel an hour or more to see somebody,” he explains.
In an evolving health care system where cost control and efficiency are key, some are looking to telepsychiatry as a solution; some are more skeptical. Could the technology a way to offer more patients quicker access to a doctor? Is that really the best solution?
According to federal labor statistics, there are more psychiatrists working in Illinois than most states, with the bulk of that service concentrated in the Chicagoland area. But mental health providers say there are major gaps in service across Illinois, especially downstate.
Zach Medlyn of Champaign was 20 years old when he started hearing the voices. That was about seven years ago when he was a student at the University of Illinois. He started showing signs of depression when he was 18 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia during college.
Mona Fortner talks about caring for her schizophrenic mother as a part of our series “Unmet Needs: Living with Mental Illness in Central Illinois.”