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  • Writer's pictureAscension Illinois Foundation

Saving Mark in His Struggle with Mental Illness


Mark is one of thousands to receive mental health treatment every year thanks to philanthropy.

Mark was 19 years old and heading home from a camping trip when he thought of ending his life.

“I did not want to die. I wanted the pain to stop,” he said.

He survived his suicide attempt in 2004, but was left permanently blind. Mark has been recovering — both physically and mentally — ever since.

Responding to an Urgent Need for Mental Health Treatment

Suicides in the U.S. have been increasing since 1999. And the suicide rate for young people is rising faster than any other group. The events of the past year are having a significant impact on mental health and suicide. In September 2020, DuPage County reported a 23% increase in suicides over the previous year.

Every year thousands of people across Chicago’s northwest suburbs — people like Mark — find the help they need at the Ascension Illinois Center for Mental Health in Arlington Heights.

The Center for Mental Health serves about 3,500 people annually; about 90% of them live in poverty or rely on public aid. The generosity of people in our communities keeps its doors open: The Center for Mental Health receives more than $1 million in philanthropy every year to provide services that often are not reimbursed or are reimbursed at a significant loss.

The Happiest Mark Has Ever Been

Since finding the Center for Mental Health a couple of years ago, Mark has received individual and group therapy, vocational services to help him find work and supported education services.

“Without the Center, I don’t know where I would be right now,” he said. “It’s helped me feel like a human again and feel listened to and accepted. Anybody who knows me says this is the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Mark said his treatment has helped him build confidence, understand his mental illness and address problems. After having insomnia for so many years struggling with his post-traumatic stress and mental illness, Mark is finally sleeping and content with life. He’s living in his own apartment. He’s writing and playing music.

“This Isn’t Just Money to Us”

Mark’s therapist, Nicole Yarmolkevich, said this year has been hard for everyone, especially for her clients who struggle with very severe mental illness. Even in this climate, where the pandemic has taken away so much control and forced so many into isolation, she said she has seen remarkable changes, growth and resilience in her clients, including Mark.

“To anyone who helps provide any type of funding, this isn't just money to us,” Yarmolkevich said. “Every single penny that’s given is 100% worth it.”

Many clients have no one else, she said. They have been repeatedly traumatized, rejected or invalidated by people in their lives. At the Center for Mental Health, they — many for the first time — are invited into a community where they are safe, accepted and loved.

“I know how many lives the Center is saving on a daily basis,” Mark said. “You’ve reached me. I’m sure you’ll reach many others.”

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Emily Dagostino

Director, Communications

Ascension Illinois Foundation

708-829-4167

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