St. Louis mother starts monthly support group to help families navigating mental health crisis – St. Louis Magazine

Sally Desu founded Gleam of Hope Community to make sure parents of adult children with mental illness have the emotional support they need.
May 30, 2022
6:00 AM
Ponomariova_Maria Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sally Desu didn’t know what to do about her usually caring and responsible college-aged son. Nearly three years ago, he began displaying extreme behavioral changes. Initially, she suspected drug use was to blame. Desu later learned that the real reason for her son’s behavioral crisis was much more complicated.
Photography courtesy Kendress Hughes
Sally Desu
After months of frustrating misdiagnoses, Desu and her son, who is now 21, discovered late last year that he was suffering from schizoaffective bipolar disorder. Navigating a mental health crisis was an isolating, distressing experience, one that Desu wants to help other families avoid. That’s why she founded Gleam of Hope Community, a monthly support group that helps parents and caregivers of adult children with mental illness find the emotional support and resources they need.
“For families, there’s hope. Have hope. Don’t give up,” Desu says. “Be your child’s biggest advocate.”
Gleam of Hope’s next meeting, which will be held Wednesday, June 1, at the Overland Community Center (9225 Lackland) will feature a panel of primarily African-American experts who will share insights into helping a loved one cope with a mental health diagnosis. On hand will be Places for People community outreach coordinator Kathleen Murray and officer Dustin Hoskins of the Maplewood Police Department. Hoskins is specially trained in crisis intervention. The panel will also feature Marlena Glenn, a licensed therapist, Charlene Cunningham, a local life coach, and Dr. Eleatha Surratt, a child psychiatrist.
Desu wants group members and first-time attendees to feel comfortable talking openly about mental health and the stigma that surrounds it. Desu notes that the stigma is acutely felt among members of the African-American community, where she says, “there are fewer resources and they are harder to find.” While helping her son find the help he needed, Desu eventually identified resources like Places for People, a certified behavioral health organization that connects those in need with behavioral care and treatment solutions. Now, she wants to share the resources and helpful information she discovered with other families who could benefit from them. 
“After experiencing all of the heartache and finally seeing hope, I decided this would be a community group to give hope,” Desu says. “It’s so easy to lose hope when you’re going through it.”
As for her son, Desu says his condition has improved in the months since he received the correct diagnosis. While reflecting on the past few years and the journey she’s embarked upon, Desu calls to mind a quote from activist and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
With Gleam of Hope, Desu is determined to show others that there are compassionate members of the St. Louis community who are eager to help families confronting a crisis she knows all too well.
May 30, 2022
6:00 AM

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