November 14, 2014

Photo of moms

Mental illness affects young people at an alarming rate. One half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75 percent begin by age 24.  What’s even more astounding is that even after an onset of symptoms, the average young person does not get treatment until eight to 10 years later.

Donna Morton’s daughter lives with bipolar disorder. Even though she was diagnosed at age 12, it wasn’t until much later in her life that she finally received the support she needed from Henderson Behavioral Health.

After her first psychotic episode, Casey Morton was hospitalized for almost a month. “Toward the end of her stay we had to figure out what to do,” said Donna.  “She had broken up with her boyfriend who was also sick.  She couldn’t come home with me and she couldn’t live alone so we didn’t know what to do.” 

Donna happened to have a friend who worked for Henderson Behavioral Health and put her in contact with a woman named Celina King.  “This woman was a saint. She was so comforting and beautiful toward my daughter.” After her evaluation with Celina, Casey was accepted into their treatment program and moved in to their group home.  Donna remembers her daughter saying, “Wow, this is a program made for me.”

Henderson Behavioral Health is an organization in south Florida that believes a focus on early intervention can make an invaluable difference in the lives of individuals with mental illness and their families. Getting young people the treatment and supports they need in a timely manner drastically improves their futures and can prevent crises and other challenges.

Henderson is one of four exemplary programs being recognized by Connect4MentalHealth, a partnership between numerous mental health organizations that promotes innovation in our communities to help those living with mental illness. They have helped more than 700 adults each year live independent lifestyles in their supported housing program.

Casey currently lives in one of these supported housing facilities and is doing very well.  “The model that they have, starts people with a high level of support and make sure that they stay there until they are ready to take the next step,” said Donna. “Structure is so important and has made a huge difference for my daughter, she has really benefited from that.”

Donna said the greatest thing Henderson has done for her family is given them hope. “Sometimes the strain just becomes so much that you get worn down and wonder if things will ever improve but I have really seen maturity in my daughter. It’s really exciting for me as a mother watch the growth of my daughter.  It has taken her to a new level of responsibility for her own recovery.”

With the help and support of Henderson, Donna says her family is able to really enjoy the time they have together now. “The impact of programs like this extends beyond the individual. It really has a ripple effect and impacts the entire family.”

“You can get tied up with the negative sometimes but with assistance it takes things in a much better direction.”

Together with the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Lundbeck, NAMI affirms the need for localized, innovative, effective and sustainable approaches to address serious mental illness. Through Connect 4 Mental Health (C4MH),a nationwide initiative, we have joined together to call for communities to prioritize serious mental illness and encourage promising practices that help people, like Casey and Donna live healthier, fuller lives.

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