ANNOWAN – On Sunday, the Annawan Inn Conference Center gathered 220 people, therapists, educators, nurses, and law enforcement officials to learn how they can help alleviate mental illness in their communities and schools.
"I was absolutely amazed at the response from across Henry County," said Beth Smith of Cambridge, chair of the Henry County Mental Health Alliance, sponsor of this first nationwide, all-day event.
"It shows what our alliance of community groups is, and citizens can do to increase awareness of mental illness and the availability of help to those suffering."
One in four Americans has personal experiences with mental illness, said conference spokeswoman Patricia Doyle, a specialist in mental crisis intervention
But only in recent years have people begun to unlock the secrets of their struggles with mental illness.
"We are breaking the stigma," said Gail Ripka of Kewanee, retired executive director of the Henry Health Department and officer of the Alliance. "People are starting to talk about mental health and their illnesses."
Several speakers and small group discussion leaders shared personal experiences about losing family members to suicide.
Pastor Cheri Magrini, Pastor He gave the keynote address at the Chicago Temple Methodist Church in Chicago's Loop.
"It's very important to share our experiences," said Magrini, who has several higher degrees in mental health.
Magrini noted the critical role of support groups, especially for small towns and rural areas like Henry County, where professional services are inadequate.
"Sharing helps others not feel so alone in their struggles."
The Henry County Mental Health Alliance offers both "Mental Health for Families and Friends" and "Peer Mental Health" Support Groups. Both groups will meet on May 1
For more information on these groups as well as a survivor of the Suicide Support Group, contact the Henry County Health Department at 309-852-0197  Guidance on dealing with schizophrenia
Patricia Doyle trains law enforcement agencies, librarians and other professionals who regularly engage with the public to deescalate possible mental health conditions.
Doyle made a short report. Course "to the conference on how to get in touch with and work with people with schizophrenia, a disease that affects one in every 100 adults.
" There are 38,200 adults in Henry County, "she noted," which means that there are 380 people with schizophrenia in your county. "
Doyle explained that schizophrenics do not have" split personalities. "Instead, they are not in touch with reality, producing a range of behaviors, including hallucinations, delusions, disorderly thinking, meaningless word flutter, and even catatonic or frozen ones States of being.
"These people have" brain attacks, "Doyle explained. like other heart attacks. "
Schizophrenics often neglect personal hygiene and dress eccentrically as if they were wearing thick layers in summer.
Doyle gave her attentive audience many tips on how to deal with schizophrenics, the brink of violent behavior Key tips include rest, attention, friendliness, patience, avoiding sudden movements, and much more.
Doyle's presentation was one of many during the conference, and there was a valuable network during the breaks between the participants.