I empathize with Virginia Seuffert’s series of unfortunate incidents regarding crime. [Grabbing our village back from criminals, Viewpoints, June 3] However, I also note her unchanging political and social outlook, which embraces fear over hope and blame over responsibility.

While she may choose the approach of “barricading the fort and posting the sentries” in a semi-hysterical and certainly self-defeating avenue to guarding her personal safety, others choose the alternative of greater civic engagement. As for her question (suggestion) “Should we push PADS out?” I would ask her who the “we” are, given that PADS has more than 1,000 volunteers from more than 30 congregations who support the agency’s widely acclaimed efforts to end homelessness throughout 20 communities in west suburban Cook County.

Should Ms. Seuffert find the time, as a board member and volunteer, I would gladly spend time with her touring PADS operations. Feedback is welcome from all quarters.

John T. Allen
Oak Park


Columnist Virginia Seuffert is not just uninformed and inflammatory in her June 3 piece, “Grabbing our village back from criminals.” She also causes genuine harm by adding to the burden of stigma for those with mental illness.

Her column expresses anger at panhandlers and distress over a mugging and a home invasion, and calls those who commit crimes “bad people.” She then goes on to attack with a broad brush “the petty thief, the mentally ill and the addled addict,” and PADS homeless shelters as the cause of rising street crime in Oak Park.

One in five American families lives with some form of mental illness, and mine is among them. Mental illnesses are as biological as diabetes, yet are viewed very differently. Those with psychiatric disorders are not “bad people,” morally weak or criminally inclined. They are us – our beloved children, brothers, neighbors and coworkers, and they need accessible treatment, compassion and support.

Cast aside the stereotype of the violent mentally ill. People with mental illness are most likely to harm themselves, not others. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teens and young adults, and 90 percent of those who die by suicide suffer from a psychiatric disorder, according to the U.S. surgeon general.

Stigma remains the single greatest barrier to treatment. The good news is that effective treatments are available, and individuals with mental illness can succeed academically, work productively and build fulfilling lives.

In the interest of full disclosure, my family also volunteers at a local PADS shelter through our Oak Park Catholic church. Ms. Seuffert, I invite you to join us and witness the humanity of these most vulnerable people.

Jean Davidson Meister
Board member, Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation

River Forest

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