By Katrina Cole
Too many families in Loudoun County struggle with mental illness, which is often hidden in the shadows because of the stigma that surrounds the topic. It is estimated that more than one million adults in Virginia suffer from mental illness, of which about 240,000 to 300,000 suffer with a serious mental illness.
For those with mental illness, and the family and friends who care for them, it is like a dark shadow that has fallen on their lives. The mission of Friends of Loudoun Mental Health is to drive back the darkness afflicting so many of our fellow citizens in Loudoun County. We are a volunteer-driven, community-based, nonprofit that helps those disabled by mental illness better their lives by providing assistance for living arrangements, advocating on their behalf for improved care and resources, and promoting recovery and community awareness.
Often those with serious mental illness don’t have a large income and are struggling to keep their home, all while dealing with their illness. Our premiere program, A Place to Call Home, provides housing assistance in the form of rental subsidies for up to six months to those in treatment for a serious mental illness. These subsidies are critical to preventing homelessness for those in treatment. Last year, Friends of Loudoun Mental Health provided such assistance to 28 individuals in Loudoun.
We partner with community groups and organizations to increase awareness for suicide prevention, particularly among youth. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among Virginia residents, and the third leading cause of death among those 10-24 years of age. Last academic year, five Loudoun public school students committed suicide. Friends, in partnership with the Ryan Bartel Foundation, is assisting LCPS to provide resources to students on suicide prevention and how to recognize the signs of mental illness.
The community can be a great assistance to Friends of Loudoun Mental Health. We participate in community fairs and information events and volunteers are needed to help distribute literature and provide referrals. We can also use assistance in setting up events such as our Hike with Hope, scheduled for Oct. 1 at Franklin Park. We also need people who are willing to advocate for better and increased services.
Friends of Loudoun Mental Health, which has been serving Loudoun since 1955, is a 501(c)(3) organization that relies on funding from grants and donations from the public. For more information, go to loudounfriends.org.
[Katrina Cole is president of the Friends of Loudoun Mental Health board. Reach her at 703-443-1380 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Working for You is a rotating column providing space for Loudoun’s nonprofit leaders to let readers know what they do and how they can help the cause. To participate in the program, email email@example.com.]