The Illinois Refining Division (IRD) recognized Mental Health Awareness Month in May by highlighting a local community outreach organization for Crawford, Clark and surrounding Counties. Jim and Vicky Smith began Possum’s Purpose after their 16-year-old son Austin, nicknamed Possum, took his own life after years of suffering from mental and behavioral disorders.
“We spend a great deal of time talking about physical health and its impacts on the workplace,” said Megan Davies, human resources manager at IRD. “Mental health is just as important, but rarely discussed. The stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental health issues can keep people from asking for help; it can prevent us from recognizing the signs and symptoms in the people we love. As a parent, I can’t imagine a tragedy greater than the loss of a child. The fact that the Smiths have experienced that loss and channeled it into a mission to help others is nothing short of extraordinary. Talking with Jim Smith, I explained how I felt about their efforts and he said, ‘If it makes the difference in the life of just one person, it’s worth it.’”
Jim and Vicky believe their son’s life and passing has a purpose of reaching out to others suffering from mental disorders. Possum’s Purpose develops awareness of children with mental disorders and provides resources for those in need.
Possum’s Purpose has expanded their awareness efforts and enlisted local schools in Crawford and Clark counties with “Possum’s Purpose Rocks!” Students painted rocks with inspirational quotes and positive messages. The rocks have been distributed for anyone to find, take a selfie with to post on social media, then relocate the rock for others to find. These rocks have been located as far as Ireland.
Through the month of May, IRD placed a Possum’s Purpose sign along a main entrance road to the refinery. Proudly displayed is a large green ribbon honoring Mental Health Awareness and a Possum’s Purpose sign promoting awareness, acceptance and kindness for those affected by mental health issues.