Mother-Son Rewrite Their Story and Offer Hope

Mother-Son Rewrite Their Story and Offer Hope

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Printed orginally in the Gothenburg Leader

Written by ROXANNE CONVERSE WHITING & ELLEN MORTENSEN

*Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and a local family has bravely agreed to share their story in hopes it will encourage anyone struggling with mental health issues to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

A mother’s love for her son led to a personal diagnosis and a passion for Mental Health awareness.

Angela Sattler first sought help for her son, Dustin Cartmill, who struggled with mental health. She said at the time the area was lacking in support and information, especially for children. Through the process of getting help for Dustin, she said she received her own diagnosis for mental illness, which had gone untreated for 36 years.

On Thursday, May 19, the 5th Annual Mental Health Awareness event will take place from 2-6 p.m. in Gothenburg’s Ehmen Park. Sattler said she started the event to create awareness and normalcy for people who have mental health concerns as well as to connect people to services available in the area.

Booths will be set up with providers of mental health services in the area, Sattler said. “Many services are available that I didn’t even know about. I want to help people feel connected and like they can share their story,” she said.

For the first two years, Sattler said she organized the event herself in the Lafayette Pavilion. Now, she has a committee of eight people and the location was moved to Ehmen Park last year, which drew more people to the event.

Sattler said she also started 18/15 Mental Health Matters, a nonprofit organization that serves Dawson and Lincoln counties. She and her committee work in partnership with Independence Rising, which she said also joined the efforts in the second year of the event.

Live music by Steven Ray and the Lone Dog band will provide a mix of rock and country music. There will also be giveaways and activities such as corn hole and face painting, Sattler said. Free hot dogs, chips and dessert, donated by Gothenburg Health, will be served from 5-6 p.m.

T-shirts are designed each year to help financially support the event and will be for sale at the park that day for $25.

Members of the Pony Express Ride will also stop by the park on their motorcycles to collect letters advocating children’s mental health. They start collecting letters at the western side of the state and deliver them to the state capitol. If interested in writing a letter, contact Sattler or look on the NAMI website for a form letter that can be printed and signed.

Sattler is an employee of Gothenburg Health and lives in Gothenburg with her husband and two sons, Dustin and David.

Navigating a New Journey

Cartmill is a 2022 graduate of Gothenburg High School, and it was his journey that initiated the annual Mental Health Awareness event. However, when you talk to him you quickly discover he is a modest young man who doesn’t view his story as anything special.

His journey includes being out of the home for more than a year. Cartmill admits that when he returned to his family home as an 8th grader, he had concerns about how other people would respond to him. “I was worried that no one would want to hang out with me,” he said. “As a result I just acted like I didn’t want to hang out with anyone so I isolated myself. I now realize that my choice to not talk to people much has made it harder for me to have normal conversations and interactions with others, and has made it a little awkward. It’s all my fault, really. But it was a way to learn to not do that.”

“I get where he’s coming from - it’s scary,” said mom. “But mistakes are what help us make a better future for ourselves. He has gained and learned so much over the last three or four yea

Cartmill shares his gratitude for the positive people and experiences in his life. “I have a school that has given me opportunities. There are plenty of people who have had things much worse,” he said. 

While her son was away, Sattler said she also received some guidance and help in becoming a better mom and a healthier person.

Throughout his high school career Cartmill has discovered activities he enjoys, and has thrived. Music and theater has become his “thing”. He has been part of the high school musical, and has had a very successful high school career in both vocal and instrumental music.

He recognizes the fact that the choices he made beginning in his junior high years have impacted his future in a positive way. Rather than choosing to go down a negative path, he elected to surround himself with positive people. Cartmill will be attending the University of Nebraska-Omaha this fall majoring in computer engineering.

Sattler said during his time in Boys Town they discovered that the majority of Cartmill’s problems resulted from his medications. She encourages all parents to work closely with a medication manager to make sure the amount and effects are appropriate.

Cartmill is a living example of overcoming adversity - of writing your own story, regardless of the opening pages. “It’s all up to you - it’s your story to write,” is the advice his mom has repeatedly given him. It is clearly advice he has taken to heart.