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Man Helps People with Mental Illness Through His Job at Center that Helped Him

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A stigma still surrounds those with mental illness, making it difficult for many to talk about it. That is slowly changing. One man is sharing how he conquered his illness in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Todd Reinders never knows what he's walking into on Monday morning. "Things happen over the weekend," he said.

From voice mails to emails, his inbox is typically full. "It can be a crisis. Or it can be, I need to have a doctor's apt on Wednesday, can you give me a ride?"

Reinders is the Integrated Service Project Coordinator at UnityPoint Health Eyerly Ball. He helps clients with a mental illness find housing, get food stamps, and attend social events.

"That was one of the keys to my recovery, getting out of the house, not isolating and doing things with other people in the same boat as me," he said.

He first came to Eyerly Ball in 2005, not as an employee but a client. "I was very agitated I would be very manic like I would try to stay awake for 2 or 3 days, spend a lot of money, just manic situations."

He was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. Programs through Eyerly Ball helped him work through his mental illness.

"I think it's great to share Todd's story because people are often ashamed of mental illness because of the stigma," said Heather Johannsen, Eyerly Ball Director of Community Based Services.

Eyerly Ball has more than a dozen programs serving about two thousand people with some type of mental illness. Johannsen said, "Our job is to keep everyone as independent as possible and really an active member in their community, so we help them get jobs to develop whatever skills they need to stay out of the hospital."

Reinders wants to give hope of what life with mental illness can be. "Life is great. I feel I've conquered it. I mean. I'm still bipolar, but I know the symptoms. I know what to do if I start feeling manic. I have a great support system here as well as home.”

Eyerly Ball is celebrating 50 years in the community. UnityPoint Health is working on plans to mark the milestone sometime this fall.

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