2016 Recipient

Contact Patti Jo Seversen, 608-769-2842, pjsevers@gundersenhealth.org
April 15, 2016—La Crosse, Wis–The 2016 Shining Star recipient conferred by the Mental Health Coalition of La Crosse (MHC) is Therese Roellich, who describes herself as a social justice advocate, currently devoting her time and energy to those living with addictions and mental illness.

The event will be held Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 4:30-6 30 p.m., and will include a brief program beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Cargill Room, Riverside Center II South. Also that evening, La Crosse County Sheriff Steve Helgeson will be honored as the MHC Outstanding Community Advocate. The event is typically held in May in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month.

According to Patti Jo Severson, president of MHC, the purpose of the Shining Star event and award ceremony is to reach out to the community and advance the mission of the coalition to spread a message of hope and to eliminate stigma associated with mental illness. “Therese is a courageous person and she is walking the walk of advocacy. She works with compassion and understanding, without judgment. She truly is a shining star,” Severson said.

Therese Roellich currently works as a Peer Support Specialist with Independent Living Resources at Recovery Avenue-RAVE, Family and Children’s Center and Coulee Council on Addictions.

“As a peer support specialist I listen to others, I encourage others and I share what I have learned from my experiences,” Therese said. “Recovery from addiction and mental illness is possible, and I want to share that hope with everyone.  My work as a Peer Specialist doesn’t even feel like work.  It is an honor to be able to simply be in the moment with people and share their life with them.  I find great joy in what I do.”

MHC 2014 Shining Star recipient Aaron Rasch knows Therese Rollich due to the paths they cross as colleagues peers at Independent Living Resources. “Therese naturally seeks those who need help, it’s never been a job for her, it’s part of her character.  She’s showed me how graceful putting faith into action can be,” Rasch said.

Therese indicates her personal mission in life is best described in these words by St. Francis of Assisi: “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart and to bring home those who have lost their way.”

“God gave me a servant’s heart and He has called me to love people as He loves them…unconditionally.”

Therese also has a personal connection with the people she devotes her life to, as she is recovery and living with a diagnosed mental illness.

“It’s not always easy for me to reveal my medical conditions publicly because I fear being stigmatized and shamed, but I have to step-out in courage and do what is right for me.  I choose not to stay silent. I speak out, not only for myself, but for those who are unable to do it for themselves.”

In regard to helping persons living with mental illness, Therese’s main motivation is in response to how her mother was treated due to being diagnosed with a mental illness.

“My mother was misunderstood by many of the people in her life. Living with a mental illness was hard enough, but my mother’s suffering was increased due to the injuries she suffered from those who rejected her and shamed her for being mentally ill,” she said.
“The stigma she suffered through was very painful.  I do my service work in honor of her.  I want people to be treated the way my mom should have been treated: with respect and compassion.

“Although my mother was not always treated with respect and compassion, she taught me to be respectful and compassionate with others. As I was growing up and might see someone who looked, or acted, different than your  ‘typical’ person, my mom would look at me and in a most accepting and non-judgmental way say, ‘It takes all kinds, Therese.  It takes all kinds of people to make up the world.’ My mother taught me the most important lesson in my life.  My mother taught me that every person has value and is worthy in their own right.”

At the Shining Star event, Therese will talk about her recovery journey and what she describes as her God-given calling in life: to love others unconditionally, and to lead by example Therese says she hopes others will do the same: “reject society’s tradition of stigmatizing those living with addictions and mental illness.”

“A lot of people in the La Crosse community and surrounding area know me from other avenues.  I am hoping that as they learn about me in this particular way—as a person living with addiction and mental illness—it will affect their own personal attitudes in a positive way about these topics and continue to move them into compassionate action toward others,” Therese said.

Over 100 friends, mental health providers and members of the community are expected to attend the Shining Star Award. Don and Roxanne Weber are serving as sponsors of the event. For more information on the Shining Star award or the Mental Health Coalition, visit: www.mentalhealthlacrosse.org.


La Crosse County Sheriff Steve Helgeson will be honored as OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY ADVOCATE.

“Sheriff Helgeson is a recognized leader who is known for his compassion and the understanding he brings to addressing the mental health needs in the jail,” said Patti Jo Severson. “His advocacy has been recognized at the statewide level by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and locally, we appreciate all that he is doing.”

John Medinger, an MHC board member echoed Severson’s comments about positive work Helgeson has done at the jail, “Sheriff Steve is a quiet man who shows his compassion by his actions more than his words. He has made the La Crosse County Jail more than a place to punish, hold and warehouse people, but a place where some people can begin the process to rebuild their lives.”




Shining Star Event – Slide Show – May 03, 2016


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