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Dixon students learn to speak up about mental illness

Sauk Valley Newspapers - 3/4/2017

DIXON ? Dixon High students are learning that mental illness, just like any physical illness, is a key component in overall health that needs to be diagnosed and treated.

Margaret Wike, a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Sauk Area chapter and a former nurse and Whiteside Area Career Center teacher, presented "Say It Out Loud" on Friday to several DHS health classes.

The program aims to get teenagers talking about mental illness, so that if they or a friend are showing signs, they will get treatment early on.

Many people who have a mental illness wait 8 to 10 years before seeking treatment, either because they do not want to accept a diagnosis or cannot afford treatment, Wike said.

"We easily talk about physical illnesses. It's time to teach people there is no shame in a mental illness," said Wike, 55, of Sterling.

Friday, students watched a short video in which people diagnosed with mental illness shared their stories, then they went into groups to discuss its contents and their reactions to what they learned.

"If I could affect one person, in each class today, to get help when they have a mental illness, boy, would I feel good about that," Wike told the class.

Freshman Christian Seagren, 14, said the presentation helped reinforce what they just learned in health class.

"A lot of people actually have [mental illness], and it is more accepted now that it was [before]," said freshman Savannah Perkins, 14.

Senior Jocelyn Jasso knows that there is still a long road to travel.

"A lot of people are stuck on stereotypes, and they need to learn more information about it before they judge people," the 19-year-old said.

"I feel this program is extremely important for students," Wike said. "If one of them will not be ashamed to 'say it out loud' when symptoms occur and talk openly with their parents and physician, it could be the difference of life and death."

The program will be presented at AFC High School in May, thanks to PRISM of Lee County, which works to lessen the effects of addiction and mental illness on the community.

Cathy Ferguson, Lee County Health Department administrator and PRISM member, is working to get the program into other area schools as well.

"High school students need to know about mental illness, because often times, issues show up around college age," she said. "We want them to have an awareness so they can seek help if they ever need it."


To book the "Say It Out Loud" program at your school, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness Sauk Area chapter at or 815-284-6417. Go to to learn more about the alliance and what is has to offer.

PRISM of Lee County is a nonprofit organization concerned with mental heath issues and substance abuse. Find it on Facebook or call 815-284-3371 for more information.


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