A two-day conference going on in Sioux City is presenting new information and some off-the-wall topics, like humor, in dealing with mental illness. Kim Fischer-Culver is director of community services for Siouxland Mental Health Center, which is sponsoring “The Many Faces of Mental Illness and Mental Retardation.” It’s for providers, nurses and doctors, and even consumers of mental-health care services are at the conference.
Twin sisters, Caroline and Pamela Spiro, gave the keynote address Wednesday morning, telling how schizophrenia affected their family and their lives. One sister suffered from the disease, the other did not. Caroline grew up to become a psychiatrist while her sister Pamela was in and out of hospitals with hallucinations, though recently with anti-psychotic medications she’s into recovery. One of the presentations deals with the transition from “patient-hood to person-hood.”
“Their mental illness is separate from who they are as a person,” she says, and there are lots of new medications and programs that help people live on their own, be more productive and empower themselves without having to rely on doctors and hospitals.
Fischer-Culver says changes in public attitudes about mental illness and in the ways it’s handled have improved things for clients and their families. Programs offered for outpatients have helped a lot of clients to live in the community instead of relying on hospitals where they’re isolated. The conference continues today (Thursday) at the Sioux City Convention Center.