Agency empowers women to overcome life's obstacles

March 27, 2008 11:13:05 AM PDT
March is Women's History Month. There are a number of women who have made a difference. Many don't get recognized for their accomplishment. One is a Chicago-area woman who has taken the lead in empowering people with mental illness.

Since 2004, Lena Raimondo has been leading Thresholds, Chicago's largest mental health agency's peer success program for people with mental illness, something she personally understands.

"Just before my mother had died, and I took medications, anti-depressants for a little while, and then I stopped, and then my mother had tragically died and I had a serious onset of chronic depression where medications weren't helping very much. In the midstream of all that trying to have a husband and run my life and try to make everyday work just becomes very, very difficult," Lena said.

From homeless to hospitalization, and even thought of suicide, Lena Raimondo has come a long way. Lena has been diagnosed with bipolar.

"It's truly invisible illness, it's painful, it's suffering. I still have bad days as much as I try to smile and get along do the right things, and it's very stigmatizing," Lena said.

Lena is a mental health professional who is currently a team leader for the recovery movement.

"Recovery is so personalized. It's what you believe it is for you. What I believe it is for me, recovery I believe, everyone can and will recover and some of us hear voices and recover just fine," said Lena.

Lena has turned her life around and made a commitment to help others.

"A lot of people come and say, they come in and say, you know, I came here because of you. They told me that you're the person to come to," Lena said.

Lena's long-term goal is to make the environment for people with mental illness feel more like home.

"It's called the living room, and it's got a doctor in it and a nurse, and it's like your living room with a bed, and it cost 2/3 less than a hospital room and you have everything you need right ," said Lena.

Lena's road to success was not easy but, she says, that women with mental illness can follow her footsteps by first getting out of bed.

"As hard as it is, you need to leave the room, shut the door close it behind them get up come here do somewhere and start living again," Lena said.

Thresholds has a recovery center where support is provided. For more information on Lena and Thresholds go to www.thresholds.org.


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