Growing into adulthood is never easy, but for a young person with mental illness, it can be overwhelming. Just ask Corey Feulner.
Diagnosed with a severe mental illness at the age of 13, Corey had a difficult childhood, including being expelled from elementary school during a psychotic episode.
“I was being bullied in school, and my principal didn’t understand the effect that had on my mental illness,” recalls Corey, who says the trauma “made him feel like a horrible person.”
The Roscoe Village resident spent 14 months in a residential program in Texas, which though bumpy, helped him become more stable. After leaving the Texas program, Corey moved back to live with his family in Chicago, but experienced a string of psychiatric hospitalizations. “I was often depressed, anxious and had a negative view of life,” he says.
That changed four years ago when Corey began receiving C4 services, including a weekly support group for young adults who help each other find the resources and strength to face difficult challenges.
Since then, Corey has not been hospitalized -not once. “I’m more positive now and am learning to solve problems on my own,” he says. Corey’s confidence has grown to the point where he volunteered last fall to be interviewed for a WBEZ series on Illinois youth and mental illness.
“I want people to be positive, to know there is always hope,” he says. Last Sunday, Corey celebrated his 22nd birthday by participating in C4 Miles, the agency’s annual run/walk event to raise funds and awareness about mental health.
Corey graduated from high school, but is putting off continuing his education until he feels more confident.
“It can be stressful, living with a mental illness. I’m not ready to go back to school just yet. Change doesn’t happen overnight,” he observes.
One day, Corey would like to become a massage therapist.
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are the most likely of any age group to experience mental illness. They’re also the least likely to receive services at a time when they are coping with major life choices about education, jobs and relationships.
As a young man with mental illness navigating the difficult path to adulthood, Corey has a message he hopes everyone will take to heart:
“Please don’t judge a person on how they look or act,” he cautions. “Please don’t judge people you don’t know.”