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Missing DC teacher case highlights importance of mental health awareness

Ian Solheim disappeared three months ago after family members explained he went through a mental health crisis. Experts told WUSA9 Ian is not alone in his battle.

WASHINGTON — A missing D.C. teacher’s family and friends are hoping to shine new light on his case. Ian Solheim disappeared three months ago after family members explained he went through a mental health crisis.

Experts told WUSA9 Ian is not alone and that it is not uncommon for people to experience a crisis when suffering from mental health issues.

Ian’s case serves as an example of how important it is to be aware of their mental health and know the signs when something might be wrong.

“It is so important to realize you’re not alone. You are not the only one,” Dr. Nikki Poindexter Ham said.

Dr. Poindexter Ham is the Associate Director of Clinical Counseling and Field Experience at Bowie State University. She also serves as the President of the Maryland School Counselor Association.

She said as the seasons change and we approach the holidays, it is a time when many people may begin to experience problems with their mental wellness.

RELATED: Missing DC teacher called his mother in crisis before he vanished, family says

“We notice that people are not really as engaged as they used to be, that they’re not participating in activities as they used to be, that they really are not talking about the future anymore. They are only talking about – very kind of fixated on just really how things are really challenging for them,” Dr. Poindexter Ham said.

Janie Funkhouser has been conscious of those signs with her son, Ian Solheim.

“He struggled with depression and anxiety his entire life, and I think COVID really just exacerbated everything,” Funkhouser said.

Ian is a teacher at Wilson High School. He disappeared three months ago on July 25 and was last seen near Lincoln Park in Southeast D.C.

He’s 6’3”, weighs about 185 pounds. He has hazel eyes and brown hair and may need medical attention stemming from his mental health.

His mother said he was going through an unexplained mental health crisis when he vanished.

“It’s not OK to not know what happened to him. It’s not OK,” she said.

“A lot of times when people reach this point of not being able to really be in a space where they feel that they are – just really are feeling that emotion – and it really is a diagnosable mental health disorder – that this happens,” Dr. Poindexter Ham explained.

RELATED: There was an increase in children going to emergency rooms for mental health. Here's how that may impact back to school learning

World Mental Health Day was on Oct. 10 this year.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms or others that Dr. Poindexter Ham mentioned, you can reach out to the Department of Health and Human Services helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

If you know where Ian is or have any information that could help find him, call D.C. Police at 202-727-9099.

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