NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - When a person meets Kjersten Sanders, a semi-colon tattoo on her forearm may be noticed.
“It is a symbol for a suicide survivor," Sanders explained.
Col. Howard Daniel, the Burke board chair, knows that it’s something that would rarely have been shared decades ago.
“There used to be a time that we would be ashamed of those that had mental illness,” Daniel said.
The state advocate for mental health knows the stigma isn't entirely gone but appreciates the strides to remove it.
“If you take a snapshot of fiscal year ’12 and now, we are serving 7,000 more people than we did. We’re something in the neighborhood of 13,500 people that we serve now," Daniel said.
Mental health care is delivered in a much different way. Tele-med technology connects clients with the specialists they need. Sanders is a member of a Facebook support group where participants learn they can easily share their stories to help one another.
“It’s OK to talk about this. It’s OK to get help,” Sanders said. “There’s no shame in it.”
Sanders shared her older relatives had abandoned mental health assistance. They can’t be blamed.
“The facilities they were going to were more like a prison than a hospital,” Sanders said.
The Burke Nacogdoches facility is far from that. Bright lighting, colorful photographs, and an outdoor garden provide a welcoming atmosphere for clients.
“You’re treated with love and with respect in a non-judgmental environment,” Sanders said.
That’s just one change that has returned Sanders’ family to the help they want and need.
“They’ve gotten back into it," Sanders said. "They’re like, ‘Oh wow, this is really different than how it was oh so long ago.’”
The changes have benefited Sanders.
“I’m not proud of my past, but I’m not ashamed of what I have gone through," Sanders said.
It allows her to celebrate life.