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Obituary by Iowa Mom Addresses Lack of Mental-Health Services

Mental-health advocates are pleading with state lawmakers to address Iowa's lack of supports for those with severe mental illnesses. (Alan Stanley/Pixabay)
Mental-health advocates are pleading with state lawmakers to address Iowa's lack of supports for those with severe mental illnesses. (Alan Stanley/Pixabay)
September 29, 2017

URBANDALE, Iowa – An obituary for an Iowa boy who took his own life is a heartbreaking call for attention to the state's lack of mental-health services. Mary Neubauer of Urbandale wrote it after finding her 18-year-old son Sergei dead this week.

She and her husband fought for years to get their adopted, Russian-born child the mental-health help he needed for depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Peggy Huppert, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Iowa chapter, says there are only 64 public beds available in the entire state for people with severe mental illness.

"We have 721 beds total to serve about 137,000 chronically and seriously mentally-ill Iowans," she says.

Huppert says no state in the nation has fewer beds for mental-health care. About 450 Iowans took their lives last year, which is more than died in car accidents in the state.

In her son's obituary, Neubauer calls on lawmakers to address the problem. Huppert says it's stories like Sergei Neubauer's that can prompt change.

Unlike a physical disease such as cancer, Huppert says health systems don't make as much money from providing mental-health services. It's imperative, she argues, for state lawmakers to address the issue.

"They either need to open up some new beds and start taking these people, or they need to provide the money to entice private providers to train and build the services that are needed to take care of people," she explains.

The Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 800-273-TALK. Neubauer closed her son's obituary by offering four pieces of advice: If you need help, ask for it. Seek to build others up, avoid drama, and recognize small moments of joy.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA