News Local/State

“They stripped her naked and made her walk back”


Mona Fortner talks about caring for her schizophrenic mother as a part of our series “Unmet Needs: Living with Mental Illness in Central Illinois.”

Mona Fortner is an adult wellness coordinator at Francis Nelson Health Center in Champaign. She’s one of six children, the only girl, and has spent much of her adult life helping to care for her mother who has schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder.

Her mom, Margaret Freeman, turned sixty-four this year and was diagnosed after the death of Mona’s father.  Fortner says her mother spent a period of time bouncing between the prison system, Community Elements mental health center and area hospitals before her family was able to get her into an assisted living facility where she could get the round the clock care she needed.

Margaret now lives at an assisted living facility in Coles County, more than an hour’s drive for most of her family. Mona’s aunt and her brothers try to visit and talk with her mother on the phone. She says it’s not easy, “I’d like for my mother to come home and be around other seniors… but anything could happen, so it’s like, you’re danged if you do, danged if you don’t.”

She talked with us as a part of our series “Unmet Needs: Living with Mental Illness in Central Illinois,” and shares stories about how challenging it can be to care for someone who can’t always care for herself, about what her mom is like off her medication and about the hurdles she faced getting her mom the treatment she needed.

Starting this week on WILL AM580, you can hear our series about living with mental illness in central Illinois on Thursdays at 6:40 and 8:40 during Morning Edition and at 12:40 during Here and Now.