Patricia Obletz had the future in mind when she included Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine in her estate planning.
“Good mental health prepares us for life’s challenges,” Patricia said. “If your mind is okay, you can handle just about anything.” For Patricia, this resilience was the best legacy she could leave tomorrow’s children.
Patricia’s commitment to Children’s in many ways reflects her personal history. Her own experience with bipolar disorder prompted her to help kids who struggle with mental health. “I wish someone had recognized my illness sooner,” she said. A prolific artist, she is also leaving Children’s a collection of her own paintings, a gift-in-kind that puts her lifelong creativity to compassionate use.
Patricia’s relationship with Children’s began soon after she moved to Milwaukee in 2004. A dedicated mental health activist, she wanted to direct her energies to a local cause, and she reached out to Children’s. Soon, she joined the Psychiatry Advocacy Committee and connected with Robert Chayer, MD, and Tracy Oerter, MS, whose goals of integrating mental health services with other medical care, and improving access, resonated with her. Over the years, these relationships cemented her decision to include Children’s in her will.
For Patricia, an integrated approach to behavioral health reduces stigma and raises awareness. Simply providing physical and mental health services under the same roof, as Children’s does, makes it more likely kids will get the help they need and sends the message that “mental illness is no less scary and severe than cancer,” she said.
More than 25 years of mental health advocacy has taught Patricia the obstacles to bringing care to those who need it. She is excited that Children’s is finding innovative ways to improve access, from providing phone consultations to pediatricians in rural areas where providers are scarce, to developing outreach programs for central city neighborhoods beset by poverty and violence.
With her estate gift, Patricia found a new way to shine a light on an issue that is too often in the dark. “No one expects their child to have a mental illness,” she said. But with greater awareness, a mental health check-up will one day seem as ordinary as vaccines or growth charts—and tomorrow’s kids will get the best possible start in life.