Updated: April 9, 2013 2:22AM
Former Antioch resident Sue Abderholden got to discuss mental health issues with President Obama as a member of a gun violence roundtable in Minneapolis on Monday.
Abderholden, a graduate of Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, Lake Forest, is the executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness-Minnesota. She was asked by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to be part of a panel discussion with the president, who was in Minneapolis to discuss gun violence.
“It sounded so strange to say ‘Mr. President, Sue Abderholden,’” she recalled. When it was her turn out of 19 other people at the roundtable discussion to talk, she told Obama that in 1961, President Kennedy challenged the nation to send someone to the moon and years later we did.
But on Feb. 5, 1963, President Kennedy challenged the country to create a community health system. “Fifty years later we’re still waiting,” she said.
NAMI is a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with mental illness and their families. NAMI Minnesota offers education, support and advocacy. It promotes the development of community mental health programs and services, improved access to services, increased opportunities for recovery, reduced stigma and discrimination, and increased public understanding of mental illness.
Abderholden said she did not want mental illness to become a scapegoat in discussions about gun violence because while some 25 percent of the population has issues with mental health, only about 5 percent ever commit a crime.
“I told him about discrimination in health care and other disability issues. I’ve never seen a group discriminated against more,” she said.
“I felt good about it,” Abderholden, 58, said of her brief moment with the president.
As to meeting Obama, “It was amazing.”
“I had a little placard with my name and the White House seal on it and I asked for his signature and I got it,” she said. “I’ll never forget it.”
Abderholden also was interviewed by Leslie Stahl of CBS’ “60 Minutes” on mental health and violence.
In 2011, she received the St. Philippine Duchesne Outstanding Alumna Award given for those who exceed normal expectations for achievements or contributions to society from Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart,
Abderholden lived in Antioch and at Woodlands until moving to Minnesota to attend MacAlister College. One of her five brothers is Lake County News-Sun Staff Writer Frank Abderholden.