ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Jeanette Towns was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. Nearly 10 years later, she was able to find help, and is now a mental health advocate and activist.
“I used to be in an out of jail in and out of mental hospitals and in and out of my right mind, and now I’m stable and I am able to help others with my stories,” she said.
Towns is now an advocate and activist for the Eliminating Mental Health Stigma Facebook group, which says its mission is to help eliminate the shame around mental health issues.
The group’s co-administrator – and licensed therapist – Latrachia Russey, says the reason for creating the private group was to give people a safe space to talk about their struggles.
“People look at mental health illness as a barrier or something that will keep you down, but the thing is, that when you are open about it and you are able to speak about it, that is something that empowers you. And, other people are, like, ‘oh wait, I’m not the only one who feels this way!'”
Leah Scanlan, regional director of Rosecrance’s Behavioral Health Group, says reaching out is important.
“Reaching out for help is not shameful. It is not to be feared. It is a way to help move through the difficulties, struggles, and to come out the other side with a better quality of life,” she said.
Towns hopes sharing her story will show others they are not alone in their fight.
“Everybody is dealing with something,” Towns said. “It’s just a matter of: do you want to get help or do you want to hide? I encourage everyone to seek help it you need it.”
Scanlan says Rosecrance suggests those who feel overwhelmed should unplug from their devices and connect with themselves by sitting outside, putting their feet on the ground, and breathing in fresh air to calm down.