To Your Health!: Stars of Light sheds light on mental illness

By Richard S. Gubbe

The Stars of Light Theatre troupe gave a stirring presentation last week for the members of the Kiwanis Club of Rockford at the Stockholm Inn. Members were taken aback by the performance of members of the group, mostly composed of local community members who suffer from one type of mental illness or another.

Under the direction of Stephen F. Vrtol III and producer Mary Gubbe Lee, the group, performing in the area since 1995, gave a moving anecdotal and statistical representation of the perils of those who deal with mental illness each and every day.

To say Kiwanians in the audience were moved by the honesty and professionalism shown was an understatement. In particular, the staggering number of those who are mentally ill and are housed in county, state and federal jails and prisons is particularly disturbing, ranging between 50 and 65 percent.

Of particular interest to Kiwanis Club members was the knowledge that many local children live in families with a member who has an illness, and more moving, the number of children who could be affected themselves. The most frequent diagnoses in the Children and Family Therapy Program at the Rosecrance Berry Campus are ADHD, behavioral disorders, bipolar disorder and depression.

The Stars of Light Theatre troupe travels upon request to schools, churches, clubs and organizations with candid presentations about mental illness, their stigmas and about recovery. The troupe has been performing since 1995 and is composed of people with mental illness, family members, Rosecrance staff and community volunteers. Shows can be tailored to particular audiences. Most shows run for 30 minutes and are followed by a “talk back,” where the troupe answers questions and shares personal stories, most of them gratifying success stories.

But what is particularly rewarding is the uplifting humor involved in the half-hour show in old-time radio style in which short skits are performed. Vrtol is a master of delivering humor and poignant information in one swift, insightful blow, deftly utilizing the real-life stories of the cast.

This is a show that should be seen by every adult in the state, most importantly by police, fire, hospital and other professionals who come in contact with the general public on a daily basis.

Upcoming shows by the troupe will be at 9:30 a.m., Oct. 31, for Winnebago County Corrections personnel at the Winnebago County Justice Center; 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Nov. 16, at the Jubilee Center, 410 N. Church St.; 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Dec. 6, for NAMI Northern Illinois at Stepping Stones of Rockford, Inc., 706 N. Main St., Rockford.

For more information, call (815) 720-5097.

The Children and Family Therapy Program at the Rosecrance Berry Campus, 8616 Northern Ave., in Rockford, provides individual and family counseling/advocacy and includes four evidence-based practices: Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Counseling can be scheduled voluntarily or for court-ordered individuals.

See the show, be entertained and informed.

Richard Gubbe is an award-winning journalist, public relations specialist and Reiki Master Teacher. He is a longtime Rockford resident who has taught preventive health, visualization and Reiki at Rock Valley College since 2003.

From the Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2011, issue

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