[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident(s). It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The B-Town Blog, nor its staff:]

To the Editor:

In recognition of National Mental Health Awareness Month, I am writing to encourage everyone who lives, works and/or plays in Burien to consider how mental illness affects our community. At the rate mental illness affects the general population, at least 50% of all families in Burien have family members living with mental illness. Severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder have an early onset between ages 14 and 24. Therefore, mental illness is hitting our families with children particularly hard. Given the stigma around mental illness, the expense of healthcare and limited psychiatric coverage in our society, many families suffer silently and without resources.

If you have never needed to seek out healthcare and other resources such as financial or housing subsidies, you may think it is simply a matter of getting signed up with a few agencies; that the help is there if you are simply willing to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Navigating the multiple systems of the Social Security Administration, Department of Social and Health Services, King County Housing Authority and Veteran’s Administration, are a constant struggle of justifying your disability and updating financial information – any slight change can impact your level of support. We might also think that modern psychiatric medicine has come up with medications that will remediate any and all mental illnesses, but for most of the severe mental illnesses, there is no single medication that alleviates all the symptoms. Further as our bodies age, medications that were once effective can suddenly lose their effectiveness.

Burien cannot ignore our residents who are living with mental illness. The purposes of government include representation, social welfare and infrastructure. People living with mental illness need their local government to represent them, secure the programs and financial support for their social welfare and create the infrastructure to deliver the support. Burien has a population of 51,000 people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults have a mental illness, meaning 10,200 people in Burien. Of those with mental illness in Burien, 2,652 experience severe mental illness such as schizophrenia (255 adults) and bi-polar disorder (1,428 adults). Who is representing these 10,200 people on our current City Council? Every Councilmember should first and foremost represent people who have limited ability to represent themselves.

Representation must also come from the community. Therefore, we invite everyone looking for support and those wanting to offer support to join together in an ongoing community discussion to learn from one another, make plans for advocacy, and take action together. On Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 7 p.m., we’ll have an outdoor gathering and conversation in the garden picnic area behind Highline United Methodist Church, 13015 1st Ave S, Burien. For more information email: [email protected]

Sincerely,
Rev. Jenny Partch

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have an opinion you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to [email protected] and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must use their full names and cite sources – as well as provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes).