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Report to Readers

Report to Readers: Coming Sunday, a column that was difficult to write, important to read

We have an embarrassment of riches planned for Sunday’s edition. Reporter Tricia L. Nadolny will assess New Hampshire’s controversial “sexually violent predator” law. Sarah Palermo will examine deep budget cuts in the Hillsboro-Deering School District. Columnist Grant Bosse is writing about the Koch brothers. Columnist Katy Burns is writing about the new pope – and the Catholic Church’s old woes. Monitor journalists will be on the scene at 11 (!) town meetings across the region, not to mention the Division II high school boys’ basketball championship game, featuring Pembroke and Souhegan.

Amid all that, there’s one feature I want to make sure readers don’t miss. On the front of the Sunday Viewpoints section, longtime Monitor reporter Annmarie Timmins will have a column about her own struggles with mental illness.

Timmins was part of a team, along with Palermo and photographer Andrea Morales, who worked on a four-part series published earlier this week about the state of New Hampshire’s mental health care system. What wasn’t clear from those stories was that she herself has struggled with many of the same issues as the people in those stories – including a long, unnerving stay at the Concord Hospital emergency room while awaiting a bed in a psychiatric facility a few years back.

Her story may be a surprise not only to readers but also to many friends and colleagues. In a small community, and at a time when mental illness still carries a stigma, writing such a piece is risky and brave. But more than that, it’s powerful. Timmins, after all, doesn’t look or sound like our worst stereotypes of people with mental illness: She has a full life, a serious career and a charming manner. She’s super smart and, as this column will remind readers, a lovely writer.

No newspaper project can cover every aspect of every issue, of course. And while this personal column wasn’t part of our original plan, Timmins decided to write it after hearing from readers of our series who doubted the prevalence of mental illness in New Hampshire. I hope it will give readers one more thing to consider when weighing the future of the state’s mental health care system: Psychiatric diagnoses aren’t always easy to see.

Your peers, your family members your neighbors, your constituents – anyone, really – might be challenged by mental illness. As Timmins writes in her Sunday column, “Most people with a mental health disorder are able to manage their illness, many so well that our disorders are invisible outside our homes. With the help of counselors, medication, even hospitalizations, we work, raise families, volunteer in our communities, run companies, hold elected office and go to school with little indication of what’s at work inside us.”

Perhaps that makes this issue more complicated than the many other health-care challenges facing the state. With luck, Timmins’s column will give policy-makers a clearer understanding of what’s at stake.

As always, let us know what you think.

(Felice Belman can be reached at 369-3370 or fbelman@cmonitor.com.)

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