Mitchell native advocating for mental health issues says 988 suicide lifeline will be a gamechanger

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — “It’s a disease of the mind, it’s a chemical imbalance in your brain,” said Becky Scheig, who grew up in Mitchell and now lives in the Minneapolis area.

Scheig and her husband Bill know what it is like to care for someone with mental health challenges and suicidal thoughts. They noticed their son Andrew struggling as early as grade school. At first, it was Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

“He was very concerned about germs he was washing his hands a lot he would not touch things he was concerned about like if we would go to the gas station and fill up with gas would the fumes make him sick,” said Scheig.

As Andrew got a bit older they saw some significant changes.

“You could see the anxiety in him was just horrible and we took him back to a psychologist and he was diagnosed with OCD and severe depression and the depression came from, he knew that these thoughts he was having were not normal thoughts,” said Scheig.

At one point Andrew’s anxiety became so severe he had suicidal thoughts. Becky and her husband worked to get Andrew the help he needed from counseling to the right medication to a half-day treatment program and he did well… for a while.

“By 8th grade with therapy and medications he was doing great, I mean it was a game-changer you know where like this is awesome, but with mental health and addiction, it doesn’t go away. You know you have to learn how to manage your illness and that’s what it is it’s an illness,” said Scheig.

Andrew died of an accidental overdose at the age of 19.

“I went to rouse him, he wouldn’t wake up but Andrew took a medication to help him sleep because he had these ruminating thoughts all the time so he was prescribed some medication to help him sleep. And he didn’t wake up and then I felt his face and it was cold to the touch. Bill, my husband just happened to be home, and as you know he’s a physician he was waiting for me out in the car and I ran to get him and he came down and he had been dead for a while. So, was it suicide? Not planned. accidental overdose yes, but did his mental health cause this? Absolutely.”

Janet Kittams with the Helpline Center in Sioux Falls says no parent should have to go through what the Scheigs did. She believes one of the greatest benefits of the Hotline, besides the ease of use, is the impact it will have on the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“I think that when 988 is promoted nationwide, it really becomes that easy access point for mental health-related issues, that that’s just going to make it commonplace for people to reach out for help so it will reduce that stigma, said Kittams.

Becky agrees stigma is a problem, she speaks to groups and works to educate others, all the while remembering the struggles Andrew worked so hard to overcome.

“Would he have thought to call a crisis hotline? I don’t know, maybe. But if that’s what’s available for anybody that needs it. You know and not having to look up the number than now is like, I don’t even know it’s like crisis or whatever, so 988 is going to be a huge difference I think,” said Scheig.

By July 16th of next year, dialing “988” will route your call to the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline. Some systems are already transitioning to “988”. Texting for help will also be available.

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