Stepping Stones to hold Recognition Evening

Stepping Stones to hold Recognition Evening


May is national Mental Health Month. In conjunction with that, Stepping Stones of Rockford, Inc., 706 N. Main St., will hold a special Recognition Evening on Wednesday, May 23, at the Coronado Theatre.

Festivities will begin with hors d’oeuvres and cash bar at 5:30 p.m., awards at 7 p.m., and finally a performance by Ms. Wambui Bahati. Ms. Bahati is an actress, writer, singer, universal storyteller and speaker. A North Carolina native, she began her formal theatrical studies in New York University of the Arts, where she majored in acting. She will share her story about launching her career on Broadway and how her life plan was cut short by mental illness. Ms. Bahati wrote, produced and stars in “Balancing Act,” a one-woman musical based on her life. It presents an informative portrayal of bipolar mood disorder and its effects on Bahati’s self-esteem, career, and relationships. In 1998, Ms. Bahati received a Woman of Achievement Award from the Greensboro Commission on Women and a Belle Ringer Image Award from Bennett College. She also received the 1999 Lion Award, which recognizes an individual for service, courage and leadership on behalf of mental illness.

Clinical depression

Every year, more than 19 million American adults experience clinical depression. It affects men, women and children of all races and socioeconomic groups, causing them to lose motivation, energy and the pleasure of everyday life. Clinical depression often goes untreated because people don’t recognize its many symptoms. The good news is that almost everyone who gets treated can soon feel better.

A checklist of symptoms of clinical depression includes:

• A persistent sad, anxious or “empty mood;

• Sleeping too little or sleeping too much;

• Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain;

• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed;

• Restlessness or irritability;

• Persistent physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment (such as headaches, chronic pain or constipation and other digestive disorders);

• Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions;

• Fatigue or loss of energy;

• Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless;

• Thoughts of death or suicide.

Left untreated, depression can lead some youth to take their own lives. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds. Attempted suicides are even more common.

Warning signs of suicide

• Threats of suicide–either direct or indirect.

• Verbal hints such as “I won’t be around much longer” or “It’s hopeless.”

• Putting affairs in order (for example, giving or throwing away favorite possessions).

• Sudden cheerfulness after a period of depression.

• Hallucinations or bizarre thoughts.

What should parents and other adults do if they think a child is suicidal?

• Ask the child or teen if he or she feels depressed or thinks about suicide or death. Speaking openly and honestly allows the child to confide in you and gives you a chance to express your concern. Listen to his or her thoughts and feelings in a caring and respectful manner.

• Let the child know that you care and want to help.

• Supply the child or teen with resources, such as a crisis hotline or the location of a mental health clinic. If the child or teen is a student, find out if there are any available mental health professionals at the school and let the child know about them.

• Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed children and teens. Alert key adults in the child’s life–family, friends, teachers. Inform the child’s parents or primary caregiver, and recommend that they seek professional assistance for their child or teen.

• Trust your instincts. If you think the situation may be serious, seek immediate help. If necessary, break a confidence in order to save a life.

Key facts and statistics

More than 54 million Americans have a mental disorder in any given year, although fewer than 8 million seek treatment.

Depression and anxiety disorders–the two most common mental illnesses–each affect 19 million American adults annually.

Approximately 12 million women in the United States experience depression every year–roughly twice the rate of men.

One percent of the population (more than 2.5 million Americans) has schizophrenia.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, affects more than 2 million Americans.

Each year, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa affect millions of Americans, 85-90 percent of whom are teens and young adult women.

Depression greatly increases the risk of developing heart disease. People with depression are four times more likely to have a heart attack than those with no history of depression.

Approximately 15 percent of all adults who have a mental illness in any given year also experience a co-occurring substance abuse disorder, which complicates treatment.

Up to one-half of all visits to primary care physicians are due to conditions that are caused or exacerbated by mental or emotional problems.

About Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones of Rockford, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit organization providing housing and rehabilitation programs for greater Rockford-area adults with serious mental illness. Nearly all the residents come from Rockford, although some come from nearby northern Illinois areas.

Stepping Stones first opened as a halfway house in 1969 in response to the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 and the quickening pace of de-institutionalization for mentally ill adults. Since then, Stepping Stones has helped more than 500 people re-enter the community, and has become northern Illinois’ leading provider of residential rehabilitation for adults with mental illness.

For more information, call (815) 963-0683.

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