They say you can never go home again but All In The Asylum author June Thiemann proved that just ain’t so with her recent book and speaking tour to Peoria, IL, where she found a welcome and supportive audience for her message of ‘proactive treatment for mental illness.’ This interview appeared in the September 25th issue of the Peoria Journal Star.
Updated Sep 25, 2015 at 9:34 PM
PEORIA HEIGHTS — June Thiemann’s approach to mental illness isn’t radical in theory. She espouses a proactive strategy beyond simple destigmatization, where trips to a therapist or psychologist are as innocuous and routine as a trip to the dentist. As she illuminates in her book, “All in the Asylum: A Lazy Person’s Guide to Self-Preservation,” the approach remains radical in practice. The status quo waits for a crisis brought on by mental illness before addressing it. As Beth Lawrence, the vice president for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, noted, mental illness “is something we deal with when it occurs.”
Thiemann, a 52-year-old former Peorian who now lives in Minneapolis, will return to her hometown Saturday to present her “All in the Asylum” at two separate events: at I Know You Like a Book in Peoria Heights from 2 until 4 p.m. and at Universalist Unitarian Church later that night. Her book traces back to her childhood in Peoria, where she graduated from Von Steuben Middle School and Woodruff High School. Thiemann and her five siblings were raised at the end of Elmhurst Avenue, all of them dealing with “every kind of diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illness you can imagine.”
Her book traces back to her childhood in Peoria, where she graduated from Von Steuben Middle School and Woodruff High School. Thiemann and her five siblings were raised at the end of Elmhurst Avenue, all of them dealing with “every kind of diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illness you can imagine.”
Through her own lens, Thiemann felt normal. Her siblings were ending up in jails or emergency rooms, and she was far from that. “I thought I was well,” Thiemann said.
Her undiagnosed depression festered, finally spawning in her adult years and especially after her older brother’s suicide. She tried to research and investigate her brother’s mental illness and then tried to write about it. Ultimately, it left Thiemann sealed off from her husband and children in a little room of her house as she agonized over the writing. In Thiemann’s own words, she was disappearing. Spurred on by her husband, she finally sought help and was diagnosed with depression. “The book was a way for me to yell for help and also hide,” Thiemann said.
After seeking help, she steadily improved. It was only then that she discovered the path to completing the book. The story was not about her brother or her other family members — it was about her. Dubbing herself as a “mental health proactivist,” Thiemann vouched for a need to break the cycle of reacting to mental illness and instead halting it well before it takes hold. The resources to accomplish that are miniscule, both in general society and locally in Peoria.
“I wish,” Lawrence responded when asked if an active approach exists in central Illinois. Some general practitioners have started to ask about depression during check-ups, she said, but that’s the extent of it.