When Mary’s son James was a junior at a local high school, he had an unforeseen reaction to two prescription drugs. Over time, he became anxious and depressed, and eventually had a psychotic break. Since then, James has been in and out of hospitals, including an eight-month stay. He has alienated himself socially, can’t keep a job, doesn’t exercise or eat well, and has given up on his earlier life goal of becoming a pilot. Occasionally he decides to go off his medication, which can result in a police visit followed by admission to a hospital. He doesn’t think he’s ill, but is unable to move forward with his life, and his loved ones face fear, sadness, and financial hardship.
Mary felt like she had to hide her family’s struggle from her friends and community, until she met Shauna Wiest, now executive director of CONNECT Summit County. Finally, Mary had a sounding board in Shauna, along with the organization’s co-founders, Ed and Lynne Rutan. They understood what she was going through as a parent and had practical suggestions for how to cope with James’s mental illness. Last winter, James was admitted to the hospital and fortunately, with Shauna’s help, they found top-level inpatient neuropsychiatric care in Salt Lake City, and a diagnosis was finally made: bipolar disorder. While Mary and James’s struggle is not over, they now have resources to rely on.
CONNECT Summit County is a member of the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance. The Alliance, initially convened by Park City Community Foundation and housed at the Summit County Health Department, is mobilizing community members, organizations, and government to address these issues. Among the solutions the Alliance is working on are an online database hosted by CONNECT (and partly funded by Park City Community Foundation) to search for services; public outreach and advocacy programs to help foster community compassion; recruitment of more providers and facilities to Summit County; and much more. For example, with many partners by our side, Park City Community Foundation organized the Summit County Mental Wellness Solutions event featuring mental health care advocate Leon Evans, and has hosted a suicide prevention training for nonprofits.
What’s still missing? Mary would love to see:
- Increased public awareness so that kids with mental health issues are more accepted.
- A better way to find the right mental health services.
- More mental healthcare providers to meet the needs in our community.
- A local place for someone like James to go on a daily basis to get help to start a new life.
The Park City community has a long way to go to provide the full range of solutions needed to support people with issues involving mental health and substance use. As this gap has become clear, Park City Community Foundation has acted by convening the key people and partners to make—and fund—change.
Mental wellness is just one example of how we are working to create an enduring philanthropic community for all the people of Park City. Thank you for supporting our efforts, enabling us to lead initiatives that benefit those who need it most.
Check back to read more about Mary and James.