Dianna Castleberry, 41, was diagnosed in 2003 with schizo effective disorder.
She had been hearing voices, seeing hallucinations, not sleeping for weeks and living in a fantasy world.
She was hospitalized in 2007 after a suicide attempt, and began receiving treatment and counseling. Castleberry was able to recover, write a book about her experiences and became an advocate for those with mental health issues.
That's why she's a good fit as a recovery support specialist at Call for Help's new Recovery Support Center at 9400 Lebanon Road in East St. Louis.
The day center will be a place for adults who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and other mental health issues who need structure to their day.
"If you're dealing with depression, isolation is probably the worst thing you can do," she said.
Castleberry, of Belleville, said she could have benefited from such a place when she was in recovery.
"The longer you sit alone, the more you hear voices," she said.
She said friends and family can empathize with what you're going through, but unless they've battled mental health demons themselves, they can never truly understand.
That's why all the center's staff will have personal experience with mental health issues, said Call for Help Executive Director Cheryl Compton.
They are in the process of hiring additional staff and hope to open the center later this month.
The center can accommodate about 35 people at a time; set hours will vary daily.
"People can come and spend a few hours a day or come a few days per week," Compton said.
A bus stop in front of the building makes it easily accessible for those without cars.
Staff members are not sure how many people will regularly use the facility's services. A schedule of activities will be shaped around the needs of clients.
The center will offer peer support and mentoring, outings and social activities, skills development, employment support and more. In the future, it may offer Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Recovery Support Center participants should be taking their medications and be committed to building their recovery.
No medical referral is necessary and there is no charge for attendance. Clients are welcome from throughout the area.
It will be the second center of its type in the state: Thresholds in Chicago offers similar services.
Kevin Hutchison, executive director for the St. Clair County Health Department, said the center will be a good resource: "It sounds like a great opportunity to serve a need in the community."
The idea for the Recovery Support Center came about last year when Call for Help ended its suicide-prevention hotline after more than 40 years. With just a fraction of the calls concerning true emergencies, Call for Help decided to redirect a large portion of the $225,000 cost to operate the hotline to a new endeavor aimed at helping those with mental illnesses.
Call for Help began renovating a wing of its building near the beginning of the year. The area formerly housed homeless women with mental health issues, Castleberry said.
The Recovery Support Center includes:
* An open area with tables and chairs, for games and discussions;
* A television area with a couch and comfortable seating;
* A self-help library with books and pamphlets on mental health diseases, including drug addiction and alcoholism;
* A computer lab for people to check email, work on resumes or research their illnesses;
* Restroom with shower;
* Washer and dryer;
* A kitchenette that will serve tea and coffee and have snacks for purchase; and
* A quiet room.
Down the road, two empty rooms will be set up with beds as a hospital diversion area for clients who "need help, but they don't really need to be hospitalized," Castleberry explained.
In addition, Compton said juvenile services may be offered in the future.
For more information about the Recovery Support Center, call 618-397-0968 or visit www.callforhelpinc.org.
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at email@example.com or 618-239-2460.