NORFOLK — 523 names. Only 12 headstones. They weren’t honored properly then, so Candice Mohnson and Tommy Newcombe are doing it now.
The duo from Region 4 Behavioral Health Services in Norfolk has made it an annual event to come to the patch of grass next to the Pohlman Ag Complex that hardly anybody knows is a cemetery to recognize those who died at the Norfolk Regional Center before 1953.
“Mental illness, it’s really hard and then not to even have your own gravestone,” Mohnson said. “It makes me really sad because I feel for them.”
Mohnson and Newcombe directed a moment of silence and then read off the names of all those buried in this cemetery and those in a more isolated one near the Regional Center. Then came the laying of two carnations for the two buried children. Their intention is to show respect for those who laid the foundation to break the stigma of mental illness.
“These people need to be recognized,” Mohnson said. “They’re in the past and they paved the way for where we are today.”
Mohnson says she is thankful the perception of mental illness has changed.
“I know what a lot of them have gone through and it’s a rough life,” Mohnson said. “For us now there’s hope. We have hope now that we can get better and people do get better.”
The Region 4 staff plans to do the ceremony again next year, but on October 10th which is World Mental Health Day.