BROWN COUNTY – Nearly five years ago, Green Bay resident (and UW-Green Bay student) Jolene Uelmen welcomed her son, Tommy, into the world. The joy and happiness everyone told her she’d feel was abundant. However, she said no one told her those blissful feelings could be accompanied by despair, isolation, depression, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
“I struggled with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, which is far more severe than ‘baby blues’ as people like to call it,” she said.
Uelmen described the events which led to her involvement in the Brown County Mental Health Court as a domino effect – one bad event after the other.
Her continuous struggles with her mental health since the birth of her son, coupled with being let go from her job of six years because of those struggles, the now 32-year-old said her life began spiraling out of control.
She said hitting rock bottom couldn’t begin to describe where she found herself.
She was in and out of jail, racked up 10 different misdemeanors, lost custody of her son, ended the relationship with her son’s father, lost an aunt to stage 4 lung cancer and alienated herself from everyone who loved her – all in the span of a few months.
“Everyone wanted the old Jolene back, and no one knew what to do besides make police calls,” Uelmen said. “I was scared.”
In spring of 2020, after finding herself in another courtroom, facing another charge, Uelman said the light at the end of a long and dark tunnel showed itself to her in the form of the Brown County Mental Health Court – an alternative program through Brown County for non-violent repeat offenders.
…A recent graduate of the Mental Health Court, Uelmen said she will always be grateful for the opportunity.
“Mental Health Court was exactly what I needed to mend my relationships with my family, friends and most importantly, I had a clear conscience and confidence to control my emotions for the sake of my son,” she said. “I hope my story and the Mental Health Court will help break the stigma that surrounds mental illness.”
Uelmen has since reconnected with her son, found a stable place to live, has a new job and is attending UW-Green Bay part-time, where she is majoring in psychology, with a minor in organizational leadership.