NAMI Sauk Area to share personal stories of mental illness

May 21 event will feature ‘In Our Own Voice’ speaker, other professionals in the field of mental health

NAMI Sauk Area logo.

STERLING – Mental health is health.

It’s a statement of fact, as well as the name of NAMI Sauk Area’s May 21 event. The hourlong program will feature three speakers, including one from the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ In Our Own Voice program.

“In Our Own Voice is a program that NAMI offers in order for the public to hear real-life stories of people living with mental illness and how they manage life, their recovery, all that,” said Mary Thormahlen, a volunteer who handles NAMI Sauk Area’s social media and facilitates its Connections Recovery Support Group.

Thormahlen will be the event’s In Our Own Voice speaker, sharing her experience of raising two young children while living with mental illness. She will be joined by certified perinatal counselor Jamie Leech, of Jamie Leech Counseling, and Tammy Steward, of Sinnissippi Centers.

Each speaker will have 20 minutes to talk, Thormahlen said. A question-and-answer period will follow, for which attendees are welcome to stay later to participate in, she said.

NAMI Sauk Area is an affiliate of the national NAMI organization and of NAMI Illinois. As a 501(c)(3) organization, it serves Ogle, Lee, Carroll and Whiteside counties.

First formed in 1979 around a kitchen table, NAMI now is “the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness,” according to

One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness, and 17% of youths 6 to 17 years old experience a mental health disorder, according to data NAMI gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health and other select sources.

Despite its prevalence, only 47% of adults and 51% of youths with mental illness get treatment each year, according to NAMI. Additionally, the average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and the start of treatment is 11 years, the organization found.

The Mental Health is Health event is set for 6:30 p.m. May 21 at Rooted Wellness, 3101 Freeport Road, Sterling.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.