Group helps people with mental illness

July 26, 2009 7:23:29 AM PDT
Fifty years ago, an organization called Thresholds was created to help people with mental illness stay out of state institutions.Today they serve 7,000 people in the Chicago area. It's the largest nonprofit provider of services for people with serious mental illness.

The success of the organization is based on the fact that community based services enables people with mental illness to live independently and in the community.

"I had like a nervous breakdown and I went to the hospital and the guy came in from Thresholds and he told me all the wonderful things that he can do for me," said Charles Thointon.

"I had a series of catastrophes. I was once married. I had a family, owned a home, owned cars, had a very good job and slowly they all started to disappeared. I became severely depressed and suicidal and that how I ended up," said Rokiah Lewis.

"Thresholds has helped me out tremendously."

"I was living in the streets basically homeless and basically had like a nervous breakdown," said Richard John Claytor. "They came to the hospital and they just picked me up and introduced me to Thresholds."

Charles, Rokiah and Richard are part of Thresholds Metro West Program.

"We help that person find themselves and find help and after they get help and become stabilized. We pick them up from the hospital and take them back to the community and the we work with them in the community for nine days and refer them to various resources until they can reestablished themselves in the community," said Helen Johnson, program director, Metro West.

Metro West is just one of many community based services provided by thresholds. Each program is set up to meet the needs of individuals with various mental illnesses. The goal is get individuals back into the community through programs like biking, recovery, theater, housing and employment.

Board member Ron Grais says Thresholds' employment program has had the greatest impact.

"There are very few agencies dealing with the folks that we deal with that are really committed to employment the way Thresholds. And the more we work with employment, the more important we find that it is," said Grais.

"Our urban meadows program where we have a flower shop in the Loop that involves are members and horticulture therapy working in the shop, I've seen some of the member there change from people who could not look at you in the eye could not get themselves to work everyday to vibrant, affective terrific people who are really now coming into their own because of that program," said Grais.

This year, they celebrate their 50th anniversary. It's a significant milestone for the organization to see how they have helped people with mental illness achieve better lives at the same time help society achieve a better mental health system.

"For an agency like Thresholds to be around for 50 years and to grow and change and evolve I think it extraordinary and there not that many agencies like it that have managed to do that and to survive," said Grais.

"Right now things are great. I'm feeling so much better about myself about my life. I'm wanting to live and wanting to fight and be out in the world again," said Lewis.

For more information, visit www.thresholds.org.


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