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Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2011

Student faces ‘long road’ to overcoming mental illness

Kansas University student Caitie Hilton talks about struggling with depression and generalized anxiety disorder since she was a teen.

September 4, 2011

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Local resources

  • Bert Nash Center, 200 Maine: Provides case management services for those with mental illness, 843-9192.
  • Recovery and Hope Network, or RAHN, 1009 N.H., Suites C and D: Provides social and supportive services for those with a mental illness, 856-1222.
  • Kansas University Disability Resources: Helps KU students with accommodations for a wide variety of disabilities, including mental illness, 864-2620.
  • KU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): Provides counseling services to KU students, 864-2277.
  • Headquarters Counseling Center: Operates a 24-hour crisis call center and provides referrals, 841-2345.

Caitie Hilton’s academic transcript at Kansas University, at first glance, doesn’t look very impressive.

Multiple withdrawals from classes, entire semesters missed and only two year’s worth of credits despite being at KU for five years since graduating from Lawrence High School.

But looked at from another perspective, Hilton’s academic progress is an inspirational story of a local woman who refuses let her mental illness keep her from success.

Beginning after the death of a close friend when Hilton was 15, she’s battled severe depression, facing multiple in-patient hospitalizations and periods when she couldn’t do much.

“It’s been a long road,” said Hilton, outside of Twente Hall on campus recently. Now 23, Hilton has been accepted into the KU School of Social Welfare. She said there have been times when “it took all my effort to get out of bed and go to school.”

Hilton is just one example of the many Lawrence residents who battle mental illness every day. And for each person struggling with a mental illness, measures of success vary. For Hilton, getting that KU degree and becoming a social worker would mean success.

For others, such as LaTonya Johnson, 55, it’s simply staying out of homeless shelters and remaining in a stable living situation. Three years ago, Johnson hit rock bottom after depression led her to homelessness.

“I didn’t want to do anything or be around people,” said Johnson, who describes her depression as a strong “heavy” feeling. “I was closed off for a long time.”

After being laid off from her job as a data entry operator, the Kansas City, Mo., native became homeless for the first time, bouncing around shelters in Kansas City before ending up in Lawrence. She spent eight months at the Lawrence Community Shelter, where social workers helped her access disability services and find local subsidized housing.

While Hilton has been receiving help for her illness for years, it took Johnson decades before she accepted help. Even then, it was a struggle.

“They had to pull it out of me,” said Johnson of her Bert Nash caseworkers when they asked about her psychological troubles.

Johnson is a member at the Recovery and Hope Network in Lawrence, where she participates in social activities with others who have a mental illness. In addition to medication and therapists, Johnson said that staying social is one of the tools she uses to stay stable.

“I’ve just found a better way to handle it,” said Johnson, who encourages others to seek help. “There is help available and it really does work.”

Staying busy and keeping her mind on her goal — graduation and possibly graduate school — is what keeps Hilton going. In recent years, she’s worked with other mental health advocates on several initiatives, including a push to increase crisis intervention training for police officers.

She’s received positive assistance from the KU community, she said. Despite her spotty academic record, Hilton said, “all of my professors or GTAs have been more than willing to work with me.”

Hilton receives services from KU’s Supportive Education Services, available to students from certain backgrounds, or those with a qualifying disability, including mental illness.

“KU has been awesome,” she said.

But before she got to KU, Hilton said, she faced low expectations and negative opinions from people who doubted whether someone with a severe mental illness could make it through college life.

“‘You shouldn’t be trying to go to college because you won’t make it through because of your mental illness,’” said Hilton, characterizing some of the comments she’d hear.

She has had to adjust her own expectations, but said she’s determined to graduate.

“I’ve come to accept that maybe I’m not going to graduate in four years,” she said. “The road that I take to graduate isn’t what most people do.”

Comments

goodcountrypeople 2 years, 7 months ago

The sad things is this part of the country is so married to labels that someone like Caitie has to go around with a giant "mental illness" banner across her chest in order to have any social identity at all. I wish her a healthy future, and hope someday she is able to throw off her past and declare herself cured!

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Alceste 2 years, 7 months ago

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2011/sep... is an interesting article redefining how we as a society need to view mental health matters. Brain balancing has great potential. http://www.brainharmonycenter.com/

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jeanettiespaghetti 2 years, 7 months ago

Multi- I am not sure what is more pathetic... The fact that you get pleasure from hiding behind a computer screen and bringing people down or the fact that you are so obsessed and jealous of Caitie that you have to turn something meant for good into a joke. If you are going to talk smack at least have the balls to do it to her face and not on the internet. Caitie is probably better off without you in her life, because she has surrounded herself with people who love and adore her. She opened up her house to me and let me live with her for 8 months and never even asked for a penny. Would you do that? Do you even know Caitie or do you obsess over her and you think you do? Maybe you should look at your own life before judging other people. Get a life, get out of your house and stop trying to bring other people down. Her 'agenda' is to better her life and prove to people like you that she can do great things no matter the distance or work it takes. So go find someone else to pick on and stop pretending like you are some kind of God. The only fan you have sweetheart is on the ceiling.

With that being said, Caitie don't listen to what this person has to say. She is obviously just jealous of your life and what you are becoming. You have been through a lot and you know I have your back no matter what the circumstances are. Let her hide behind her computer and act like she is tough, because when it comes down to it you are better than her. I will call you shortly and hopefully you are still up for lunch or something.

-Jea

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whats_going_on 2 years, 7 months ago

Caitie...try not to let the trolls on this website get you down. (And LJWorld, THANK YOU for moderating this). I don't know Caitie that well but I was able to spend some time with her on a weekend and she absolutely great, such a sweetheart.

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Amy Heeter 2 years, 7 months ago

So what's your agenda?

The caitie I know( I have known brother for years) has had some struggles, but also many successes. She is kind and supportive of her friends despite her limitations. She has been advocating with the lpd in behalf if those with mental illness.

It's a darn shame some people prefer to look only at the past and zero in on the negatives. Instead if we look at progrrss and the present while seeing the magic of hope and perseverance.

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Multidisciplinary 2 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Dan Eyler 2 years, 7 months ago

I am proud of the efforts this woman is putting in. Mental illness can be a life time illness for some. But I am concerned about the ongoing trend of promoting mentally ill students into social services and such. Since serious mental illness typically is a long battle with ongoing mental problems why would we promote these students into a line of work that consists of dealing with the very illness they suffer. This isn't just depression and I don't mean to lump all mental illness into one group by any means but professionals in this field can certainly identify and persuade a good number of students that social services may not be a good fit for either party. Because of the expense of these services and for many a life time, and with the big reductions in government spending, we really need to promote the best and the brightest into social services who can give the most positive impact for those needing services.

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Liberty275 2 years, 7 months ago

I feel her pain. I couldn't walk across campus at KU and would often hide in the corner of empty classrooms with the lights off between classes. How do you fight the part of your mind below your consciousness? What's really odd is that I could stand up in front of 30 students and teach with ease.

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Ray Parker 2 years, 7 months ago

Women who commit abortions are 81% more likely to experience subsequent mental health problems, according to a new study published by Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. The greatest increases were seen in relation to suicidal behaviors and substance abuse. Women with a history of abortion face higher rates of anxiety (34% higher) and depression (37% higher), heavier alcohol use (110% higher) and marijuana use (230% higher), and higher rates of suicidal behavior (155% higher). Not only does abortion nearly double a woman’s risk of mental problems, but 1 out of 10 of all mental health problems is caused by abortion. We cannot allow any mental health exception in laws restricting abortions, ever.

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Adrienne Sanders 2 years, 7 months ago

KU has resources if you're a student (as noted in the article), and if you're lucky enough to have health insurance, your family dr. is a good place to start. He/she can refer you to the appropriate professionals.

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kernal 2 years, 7 months ago

It's great Caitie is getting all this support from the commenters, but what about all the other KU students who deal with severe depression on a regular basis and are struggling to get their degree. Who do they get their support from and where?

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catchmeifucan 2 years, 7 months ago

Caitie-

ITS A LONG HARD ROAD. I WAS DIAGNOSED BIPOLAR DURING UNDERGRAD AND SCHITZOPHRENIA A FEW YEARS LATER. I FINISHED LAW SCHOOL, AND IT WAS TWICE AS DIFFICULT FOR US. I JUST FINALLY GOT MY FIRST BRAKE IN THE JOB MARKET. ITS HARD WITH THE EVER CHANGING MEDS AND INFREQUENT HOSPITALIATIONS. I AM HAPPY YOUR IN A FIELD WHERE YOU CAN GIVE BACK. KEEP PLUGGING AWAY.

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camper 2 years, 7 months ago

Good for you Caittie. Good luck in your new studies.

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Amy Heeter 2 years, 7 months ago

I do not Know what multi said But if it was deletable then I'm sure he doess not know caitie. I refer to her affectionately as " my little crazy girl", because I adore her. Having said that "crazy people can achieve great things. For example, Michelangelo,lord Byron,Virginia Wolfe,Sylvia plathe and many more. Just because the road is tougher to navigate and takes longer to arrive at the chosen destination, it does not minimize the achievement. Robert frost said it best " I took the road less traveled by and that made all the difference"

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Starbrite 2 years, 7 months ago

Keep up the good work, Caitie! I know you will succeed in obtaining your degree despite any obstacles. I think you are very brave young woman. Thank you for sharing your story with others. Hopefully it will inspire others who suffer with mental illness to realize that they can reach for their dreams too.

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jhawk0097 2 years, 7 months ago

Keep it up Caitie. As someone who has dealt with major depression since puberty (now 37), it took almost 10 years to get my undergrad from KU. Never give up.

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ksrush 2 years, 7 months ago

Great story. Caitie you are an inspriation. I wish more people had your never quit attitude. Best of luck to you.

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kernal 2 years, 7 months ago

As far as I know, Liberty275 is not a doctor, but was only reaching out and making recommendations based on his personal experience in life, whether of himself or someone he knows well. Commenters to LJW often do that and we all know it's not meant to be medical advice, it's just another way people reach out.

The best advice I can give you is do some deep breathing exercises and enjoy the rest of your weekend with your family and friends. And, no, I'm not a M.D. I'm just a hooman bean like everyone else here.

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Liberty275 2 years, 7 months ago

"“it took all my effort to get out of bed and go to school.”"

Wait until agoraphobia hits and you won't have enough effort to leave your front door. I recommend benzos. Xanax is a miracle drug, and Klonopin will keep you from needing it very often.

SSRIs/SNRIs don't work nearly as well. They aren't pushed as hard now either, now their patents have expired. Funny that.

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Multidisciplinary 2 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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eday 2 years, 7 months ago

I was lucky enough to know and work with Caitie when she was a student at LHS. I admired and respected her, then. She is a compassionate, introspective, persevering young woman who worked incredibly hard to understand her own behaviors and change them. I know that her post-high school years have not been easy, but it seems that she continues to grow and change as she builds a life that brings her satisfaction and reward.

Some of us walk around with destructive and often mean-spirited stereotypes about what it means to live with a mental illness. Caitie's life clearly demonstrates the pernicious nature of those attitudes. She is a giving, thoughtful warm woman. And, apparently, a very brave one, as well.

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Erin Graham 2 years, 7 months ago

I absolutely LOVE this girl!!! I can't even begin to tell you how much of a positive impact she's had on my life and so many others. Caitie- I'm SO incredibly proud of you and everything you've achieved so far. Still plenty of work left to be done! Keep at it!! Awesome article- doesn't even scratch the surface :o)

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