“I had a lot of trauma stuff, some bi-polar stuff but it was so masked by my behaviors and my addictions,” says Bill Carruthers.
We are talking in his office at Savannah Counseling Services (Gateway Behavioral Progam) where he works as the director of Peer Programs.
Carruthers says he struggled most of his life with addictive and criminal behavior until about eight years ago when he received the correct diagnosis and the support and counseling he had needed for so long. “And when you get diagnosed is important and what system do you encounter first, the hospital or the jail,” he tells me.
Unfortunately, he says the system many encounter first is the criminal justice system which normally doesn’t help anyone long term. “A lot of times, these negative interventions take place not because we’re bad people but because there are no other options. And what has to happen for the recovery of our community is there have to be more options,” he said.
Corruthers says he was lucky to be given help and now he works to provide ways to help others. “People need to hear that recovery is possible,” he says.
Corruthers says mental health issues can come to the forefront on crime coverage. (Just last week a man in Savannah who police said was a “mental health consumer” was arrested after a shooting and stand off with police.) But Corruthers says crime is often just a glimpse of the local mental health picture. “If something bad happens every day I can assure you that something good happens every day as well,” he told me.
Corruthers says every day there are patients and families that love them working toward solutions. Next week, he will have the opportunity to speak at the White House to indicate his support of solutions for mental health patients in this community and nationwide.
“The message is that recovery is possible, the message is that our heart is in it, that we’re trying our best., that we need information and most of all we need support.
Corruthers says there should be no shame and no stigma in indicating that one needs help. He says the longer people do not talk about their illness and what’s going on, the longer they will suffer. “I spent a lot of time in the Big House and the Crack House, but look at me now, I am going to the White House,” he said.