On Your Side

Milwaukee mother has a message of hope for others fighting mental illness

CREATED Mar. 5, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Melanie Deavers has four boys who keep her on her toes.

"They're very entertaining.  They talk a lot, and can get into arguments with each other," she laughs.

However, not that long ago Melanie's children were taken from her, as she learned how to cope with her mental illness.

"It took a lot of classes, parenting classes, wellness recovery classes, therapy, and being on my medication," she recalls.

Melanie was institutionalized, and diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  She says she has a very matter-of-fact way of looking at it.

"What mental illnesses are, that they're just medical conditions, that there's nothing to be afraid of," she explains.

She knows a stigma exists though, "People think, 'Oh you're looney, you're a homeless person on the corner,' or something like that, and it's not."

Kristina Finnel is with Mental Health America of Wisconsin.  The organization helps people like Melanie get back on their feet, and be productive members of society.

"What we really want to see is that individuals with a mental illness receive services in the community, in their home.  We want to make sure people are still able to work, or be able to do what they do on a daily basis," Finnel says.

Funding is tight for outreach services.  Advocates want to see mental illness be a higher priority for lawmakers.

"With the current Milwaukee County budget, there's money being saved from downsizing institutional beds, however, those savings are not being reinvested in the community," Finnel points out.

Reinvested... so there are more success stories like Melanie --who's making a new life with her husband and boys.

"I'm in a very good place.  Like I said, I'm getting ready to buy my first house, which is something my parents couldn't even accomplish," Melanie beams.

Melanie has even taken her recovery a step further.  She's now a peer specialist with Mental Health America, and helps others on their path to wellness.