By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
More than three dozen balloons traveled through the sky on Wednesday in support of Mental Health Month.
Michael Rein, executive director of Transitions of Western Illinois, hoped the barriers to receiving mental health care would fade just as quickly as the balloons floated into the sky. Rein said mental health illnesses are more prominent than cancer, lung and heart disease combined, but significantly less treated. He noted 20 percent of American children have a mental illness, but only a third will receive treatment.
"Stigma is a big problem and I'm going to tell you it's not getting any better," Rein said.
Transitions has fought that stigma for the past 58 years. The not-for-profit annually provides services to more 9,000 adults and children with mental illness. Rein said that treatment for mental health illness can result in healthier, happier and more productive lives.
"Apparently, 58 years ago the city was very enlightened about things going on the right track," Rein said.
Chris Parker, coordinator of behavioral health at Transitions, said the therapists, social workers and psychiatrists at Transitions work to treat mental illness and emotional stress just as a primary care physician might correct a cold.
"Everybody has issues and problems in their life, so seeking out services or someone to talk to isn't a bad thing," Parker said. "At times everybody can benefit from having a nonjudgmental, noninvolved person to come in and talk about whatever's going on in their life."
Transitions provides an array of services to both adults and children such as psychiatric evaluation and treatment, counseling and therapy, vocational and life skills training services, special education services, and crisis intervention. The treatments focus on combining coping skills and resiliency with external resources to improve results.
Transitions clients learn to seek help from friends, family, schools and other community resources in order to achieve their individual goals.
"Our clients will accomplish things they never dreamed were possible," Rein said.