By Wendy Gradison
There’s been a lot in the news about mental health—even here in Loudoun. The more stories I read, the more I want to make sure everyone knows about the resources available to them and their loved ones that can save or change a life.
As the head of PRS, a nonprofit that helps families and individuals in Northern Virginia recover their lives when facing mental health challenges, I recognize the toll it takes on our families and communities. That’s why learning about available programs and options is essential.
We are involved in a number of great programs in Loudoun County to help those struggling with mental illness. In partnership with Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia, PRS is hiring peer specialists who work closely with the Loudoun Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services. Trained peer counselors—people who have lived the experience—provide outstanding support and proven opportunities for recovery to individuals living with substance-use disorders. These counselors have a bond and ability to help their clients based on their common experiences.
Another innovative Loudoun program is helping teens and young adults suffering from a first psychotic episode. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of youth between the ages of 13 and 18 have or will have a serious mental illness; 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14; and 75 percent begin by age 24. Unfortunately, the average length of time between onset of the illness and getting help is almost a decade, complicating recovery efforts.
Loudoun’s coordinated specialty care program—called LINC (Linking Individuals and Navigating Care)—seeks to lessen the gap by providing help much earlier. Started a year ago, the program helps young people who have experienced a first psychotic episode, and it’s already making a difference. In fact, one local mom whose son came home from college suffering from a psychotic break started the journey to find help. After many struggles and months of dead ends, she found the LINC program and now her son is on the road to recovery.
LINC’s goal is to help young people and their families understand and manage symptoms of mental illness, while also building skills and supports that allow them to be successful in work, school, and life in general. The program also focuses on clients’ families so they can better understand mental illness and learn ways to support their loved one and instill a hope for recovery.
Loudoun participates with PRS’ CrisisLink program, the region’s hotline—(800) 273-TALK—and text line—text “CONNECT” to 85511—for individuals facing serious life challenges, suicidal thoughts, emotional or situational problems.
Information is a powerful prescription for hope. To learn more about Loudoun’s mental health efforts, call 703-771-5239 or go to prsinc.org.
Wendy Gradison is the CEO of PRS Inc., a nonprofit helping those living with serious mental health issues.