After Martin's Shooting Elkhart Councilman wants community discu - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

After Martin's shooting, Elkhart councilman wants community discussion on mental health


After the recent shooting at a local Martin's and other shootings across the country, an Elkhart council member says now is the time to focus on mental health awareness.

There was a special presentation on the topic at Monday night's Council Meeting.  Councilman Brian Dickerson organized the presentation because he said the first step in addressing the problem of mental health awareness is education.

Gwen Preheim-Bartel and Roger Copeland gave the presentation.  Preheim-Bartel said, "I sure didn't know when my sister was beginning to struggle I didn't know where to go for help and a lot of people don't, you think this is never gonna happen in my family."

Preheim-Bartel's said her younger sister first showed signs of paranoid schizophrenia in the 1970s.  It's that first hand experience with mental illness that makes her so passionate about helping other families struggling with the disease.  Preheim-Bartel said, "with my sister we were told, and this is what a lot of people hear right now, is that we can't do anything unless they're a danger to themselves or to others.  I mean really?  It takes that much to get some help?"

Decades after her own journey trying to help her sister Preheim-Bartel said resources have improved.  At the Elkhart Council Meeting Monday night, Preheim-Bartel shared what those resources are locally through the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI.  "I wish so much this would have been available when I was first learning about my own sister's illness."

Councilman Brian Dickerson asked NAMI to educate the council and the public.  "Mental health awareness and education I believe is a keystone when discussing how to address the shootings we've had both here in Elkhart and abroad."

He said people are listening now after the recent shooting at Martin's.  "Because it's right here at home people have heightened sense of awareness right now so it's an opportunity to engage people, to bring them together and to see what we can do to provide that education," said Dickerson.

Preheim-Bartel said more education is critical.  "Right now they tell us there's about 1 in 17 people in the U.S. has a mental illness and only about half of them are getting the help they need."

Dickerson hopes education can change the future.  "Showing those resources are available I believe are important so we may be able to prevent some of the tragedies in our community from occurring again."

NAMI offers free classes for people with mental illness and for family members of those affected by mental illness.  They are 12 week courses offered twice a year.  For more information visit the NAMI Elkhart County web site.


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