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Non-profit working to break mental illness stigma at schools

Posted: 10:47 PM, Nov 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-04 23:22:39-05
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LAKE COUNTY, Ohio — Julia Knopes was once ashamed.

"Some weeks I was exhausted worried and depressed other weeks I spoke so quickly that my sentences blurred together while my hands shook," said Knopes.

She now tells her story loud and proud to help others.

"My psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and helped me find medications that reduced my symptoms, made the suicidal thoughts disappear and made me feel physically and psychologically better," she said.

Knopes started battling mental health issues when she was in high school, but wasn't diagnosed until college.

"I think I would feel really sick if I didn't have that support," she said. "I think that I would not have sought therapy, I would not have sought help from a psychiatrist."

Knopes is recovering and she's not just living a normal life, but an extraordinary one. She's a PHD, married and is volunteering with NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

"We try to break the stigma around mental health," said NAMI program school coordinator, Anita Crnjac.

She says every kid is different, but there are some warning signs.

"Extreme nervousness, you could see them missing school, finding excuses not to go to school, you see them day dreaming at lot," Crnjac said.

The folks at NAMI believe its important to get everyone on board in order to fight mental illness in adolescence including teachers and parents. Monday night, it was the parents turn to learn all about their resources during a presentation at Memorial Middle School in Mentor.

"I have a child whose struggling with mental illness and we've gone through a few therapists and I'm just trying to find the right therapist now," said Vicki Hatton.

Hatton says she learned so much and encourages other parents to get involved.

"I feel helpless sometimes so the additional resources really feel, I'm more empowered now to help my child succeed," she said.

The easiest way to learn everything NAMI can offer is to call 1-800-950-6264 or click here .