CHICO — “My diagnosis is schizophrenic disorder — I realized that I was having mental health issues after college and I had been a teacher for a year,” said a person on a panel whose name is limited to Allison. “I probably needed help way before that and I had been to doctors and been on different types of medications until that point.”
Allison had her first hospital stay after her first year of teaching.
“My parents didn’t know what to do for me,” said Allison. “There were some things that I probably needed that they didn’t understand. It also didn’t help that they were divorced but I don’t blame them for that. Some people shouldn’t stay in marriages and I’m OK with that.”
Allison was sitting on panel next to her mother during a town hall hosted by National Alliance on Mental Illness Butte County. A total of three pairs consisting of people who lived with mental health issues and their loved ones shared their stories and focused on interactions in crisis, family involvement, medication challenges and living situations.
“My relationship has grown with my mom during the past years,” said Allison. “In many ways we have grown together and as for anything that my family could have done better, it would have been to visit me more often in college and that we would all have had more patience and compassion for one another. I think I needed a little more guidance during the younger years, but I made it this far and I’m doing really well.”
The change in behavior was originally thought to have been caused by the everyday stress of being in college including friendships and breakups, said Allison’s mother, whose name is limited to Susan.
“We never really were thinking of mental illness,” said Susan. “That really wasn’t something that we thought about. My husband and I went to a couple of NAMI meetings in Southern California and that opened some different doors for us, and we could reevaluate our thinking and how we evaluated things. I guess if we were to do anything differently, I guess it would be to learn more about mental health earlier and to have accepted the fact that it could have been a mental health issue. It’s a very personal issue that we didn’t talk about it 20 years ago, but we do talk about it now.”
The town hall added a portion of time to include a panel of mental health professionals and professionals including community organizations. Director of Butte County Behavioral Health Scott Kennelly, Executive Director of the Jesus Center Amber Abney-Bass, Chico Housing Action Team Executive Director Leslie Johnson and Program Manager for the Everhart Village Caitlin Patterson joined the event to answer questions from the audience. Questions for the panel ranged from medication accessibility to services that impact unsheltered people.
“There is a number of programs in the community that people don’t know are funded by Behavioral Health,” said Kennelly.
A question asked for the opening date of the Everhart Village, a shelter site planned by CHAT which will and Butte County Behavioral Health that sit with 20 cabins for Butte County Behavioral Health clients.
“I don’t have a set date for when the center will be up and running but we’re going to be starting the building period soon. We’re hoping for the fall of this year,” said Patterson.
The village will also have the Resiliency Empowerment Support Team to recruit and build relationships with people to get them into services, said Kennelly.
“It’s about building a relationship and engaging with people who aren’t necessarily aware there is help or don’t want help, but the community knows that they need help,” said Kennelly.
NAMI Butte County hosts peer-led support groups for people with mental health conditions. The group meets every 4th Monday of the month from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm on zoom. The group is free, peer-led and can be registered for at NAMIChicoConnection@gmail.com.
A family support group hosted by NAMI Butte County is organized during the first Tuesday of the month from 6:30 pm until 8 pm on zoom. The free confidential support group is for loved ones of people with mental illness.
NAMI Butte County sponsors once a week, 8-week long peer to peer or family to family education courses focused on recovery that focuses on understanding and encouragement.