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My Turn: Mental illnesses are treatable conditions

Thank you so much for “In Crisis,” the amazing series in the Concord Monitor about the mental health system in New Hampshire. I especially want to thank reporter Annmarie Timmins for sharing her story.

I am a parent of two children with mental health challenges. Luckily I found NAMI-NH when my older son was only 9. I was able to take the Family to Family class that it offers. Later I took the class for parents and eventually became an instructor for the Parents Meeting, the Challenge group, as well as a support group leader for NAMI-NH that was specifically for parents.

The issue of stigma is so big for people with mental illness that it is often not spoken about. It is viewed differently from other illnesses, as it can impact one’s behavior. No one brings you a casserole when your child is unable to manage his emotions at school or you are struggling to find a psychiatrist and there is a five-month waiting list.

Bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders in children seem to be on the rise, and no one is sure why. I, too, have been in an ER with one of my children and unable to get a referral to the hospital. These special rooms are intended to keep people safe, but they also make people feel isolated at the very time they are reaching out for help. Luckily, we were able to get some intensive outpatient services, which really helped my teenage daughter become stable and develop some better coping strategies. Both of my children will need ongoing support, including medication and counseling. My 21-year-old son has begun receiving services from the Greater Nashua mental health center over the past year and a half. Either one of my children may need more intensive services should their illnesses break through.

Mental illnesses are treatable conditions. People should not feel stigma for having a condition that requires intervention. We need to support our mental health system to assist those in need in a timely manner. Community supports can keep people stable and out of the hospital. We need to continue to move people out of the darkness. Thank you for sharing your story.

(Pam Banks lives in Hollis.)

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