Good mental health is critical for balanced life

By Amanda Spear Hartley
SamaraCare board member, Lisle
Posted5/4/2017 6:00 AM

I run to raise awareness of mental illness and funds for SamaraCare.

SamaraCare is a nonprofit organization founded in the 1960s when three Naperville churches -- Knox Presbyterian, Our Savior's Lutheran and St. Raphael Catholic -- set out to improve the mental health of their community.


Today, this organization runs smoothly under the dedicated leadership of CEO Scott Mitchell and the outstanding skills of highly educated professionals. Last year alone, more than 1,500 people received counseling and hope through SamaraCare services, regardless of their ability to pay.

Good mental health is critical for a balanced and productive life.

Unfortunately, mental illness affects nearly 20 percent of American adults. If you do not have a mental illness, you likely love someone who does.

Yet we are reticent to admit this truth and often hide symptoms or diagnoses from those around us. Stigmatization of mental illness hinders people from seeking help.

This is unconscionable because, with proper treatment, between 70 percent and 90 percent of those with mental illness experience a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life.

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I know the detrimental impact of mental illness because I grew up in a household marred by its presence. Though my mother tried to parent, she was hampered by her disorder. I wonder what my childhood experience would have been had she received effective treatment.

I, personally, have sought help for anxiety disorder when my life as a working parent with preschoolers became overwhelming and my mind and body rebelled against the strain. With medication and behavioral modification therapy, I was able to regain my mental health and spirit.

This year in particular, I run the DuPage Human Race with a fervent drive to increase awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness. I run for my friend, because last November he lost his life to suicide. There is no clearer evidence of the damage of mental illness stigma than when a person commits suicide with little or no warning.

My friend's death was shocking and devastating to his wife, mother, children, extended family and friends, and his community. Sadly, the loss felt by his loved ones is not an anomaly.

In the months following his death, Naperville lost several others, including children, to tragic suicidal deaths. Though I was already a board member for SamaraCare, my friend's sudden and unnecessary death further personalized the work of this incredible organization.

I hope you will join me in supporting SamaraCare. If you would like to donate -- or if you need help or have questions about mental illness -- visit the website at

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