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Sauk County group combats mental illness

October 3, 2018

A Sauk County advocacy group is working to raise awareness of mental health issues and the availability of local help.

The local affiliate of the National Alliance of Mental Illness is commemorating Mental Health Awareness Week with an event in Baraboo. Before speakers address current mental health challenges, Sauk County NAMI volunteers will promote the availability of a local support group and free volunteer training.

“There’s hope for recovery,” said Lorrie Wickus, president of the local affiliate.

Sauk County NAMI’s Awareness Day will start at 9 a.m. at Baraboo Arts Banquet Hall. A $1,000 grant from Culver’s is funding the event.

Joining Wickus and local pharmacist Dr. Ted Hall at the podium will be state Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, who serves on the Assembly’s mental health committee. Considine said there’s a limit to Wisconsin’s power to address a national epidemic, but he’d like to see the state bolster its roster of mental health care providers by doing a better job of keeping homegrown specialists in the state.

Considine also said Wisconsin too often jails mentally ill residents rather than getting them help. “I think there are better services for them, cheaper services for them,” he said.

NAMI reports that as many as one in four families is affected by mental illness.

“It’s all over,” Wickus said. “It’s within our churches, our communities, our workplaces.”

While common, mental illness remains a taboo topic for some.

“There’s a big stigma out there still,” Wickus said. “People fear what they don’t understand. The more people understand it, the less stigma there will be.”

She got involved with NAMI because of family experiences. Sauk County’s affiliate meets monthly, hearing speakers’ personal stories. Its message: “You are not alone.”

“People feel hopeless,” said Considine, whose family also been touched by mental illness. Before becoming a legislator, he taught students with emotional and behavioral disorders at Baraboo’s middle school.

“I want to do as much as I can to fight mental illness,” he said, including supporting the local NAMI affiliate. “I’m really proud of the work they do.”

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