Thursday, July 7, 2011

Building Better Lives Together

By Katrina Gay, NAMI Director of Communications

As Thomas Moore, the Irish poet, once said, “To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship.”

And here at the 32nd NAMI Annual Convention in Chicago, it is clear that it is the friendships that truly matter.

Each summer, people gather at the convention from across the country and the world to inspire one another and gain knowledge about mental illness. They come to connect with old friends and make new ones, to share their stories of struggle and triumph and to contribute to the thoughts and ideas that encapsulate NAMI.

This year, the NAMI Annual Convention welcomes a crowd of more than 2,300 individuals, families and others affected by mental illness.

They come for a short repose from the important work they do as advocates and community leaders and reflect on what they have achieved, how far they have come and what the vision for the future should be.

It becomes evident to everyone here that NAMI is more than an organization. We are a community. A family. A movement.

At pre-convention activities on Wednesday, July 6, early arrivals were inspired by one another as well as by opportunities to engage with author and mental health leader Elyn Saks.

Elyn spoke to a standing room only crowd, sharing her personal story of living with schizophrenia and recounting excerpts from her book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness, which chronicles her life with the illness as well as her successes both personally and professionally.

The recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacAuthur Foundation Fellowship -- also known as a “genius grant” -- Elyn has established the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics located at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. Her work will continue to make a difference and change the way we understand mental illness as part of the human condition.

Through her intimate interactions with the audience, Elyn offered encouragement and inspiration to all in attendance.

Luckily for us, this is just the beginning. There are still three more jam-packed days of events.

At the NAMI Convention, one realizes that NAMI’s generations span the challenges we have faced in the past and those that we face in years ahead. And as tough as things gets, belief and friendship are part of NAMI’s heart.

As we celebrate our successes and prepare for the challenges that remain, it is our common experiences with mental illness that unite us.

It is our dedication to NAMI and to one another that are the essence of the NAMI Annual Convention.

For those not at the convention, highlights will be posted on NAMI’s website and feeds will be shared through Twitter and Facebook.


Malcolm Varner said...

Glad to hear that the annual convention is going well. Friendships are truly an enriching part of life. And anyone who is blessed to have one or a couple of strong friendships over the course of life is truly blessed.

joflatfeet said...

What a great thing, this convention, I hope it brings more success and exposure for NAMI
I hope to set an example of courage through adversity.

Janet Ohlsen

Robert Richardson said...

Good information. I am 64 years old and I am a mental patient at the Birminghan Medical center in Birmingham, Al. I am being treated for PTSD (Vietnam 1968:1969),depression and personnality disorder.Our Sheriff Department here in Jefferson County does not allow inmates to receive pain and mental health medicines. I have written Sheriff Hale the following letter informing him of my abuse and requesting that he update the JC Jail's mission statement. I have received no response.
State mental hospitals aren’t available here anymore. Here in Alabama for example the Alabama University wanted the property next to them (Bryce Mental Hospital) so that they could expand their athletic facilities. That hospital had around 5,000 patients several years ago. Many of them were put out on the streets because their parents had passed away or their parents weren't able to care for them. Those that were put on the streets were beaten and tazered by police because they couldn't understand and obey the police's orders that were given to them. Most of those patients ended up in county jails and some in state prisons. Most of them were charge with breaking and entering and stealing just because they were hungery and wanted out of the cold Now they are beaten and raped by inmates because they make noises and they are different. NAMI please help us if you can.

Robert Richardson said...

There is not a Mission Statement for the Jefferson county Jail here in Birmingham, Alabama that prohibits abuse. I searched the Al. Dept. of corrections and found that their mission statement mentions a safe, secure and humane environment utilizing professionals for the inmates.

The following is the mission statement of the Alabama Department of Corrections "To confine, manage and provide rehabilitative programs for convicted felons in a safe, secure and humane environment, utilizing professionals who are committed to public safety and to the positive re-entry of offenders into society.”

Please read the way that I a 64 year old VietNam veteran with PTSD, Anxiety and depression was treated in the Jefferson County Jail. During my jail house booking, beginning Wednesday Aug. 03, 2011, I was asked what medicines I was on. I told them that I was on Lortab and ibuprofen for nerve tree pain down my right arm and shoulder due to degenerative neck disks. The nurse said that the JC Jail does not dispense pain medicine? I was also given a prescription of pain medicine earlier that evening at the Cooper Green Emergency room and she said that I would have to get it filled myself after I was released from jail. She still has that prescription. I was then asked what other medicines that I was on. I told her that I was taking medicines for PTSD, anxiety and depression. She asked me what was PTSD? She said that the jail will not dispense my mental medicines and that I would have to go to the third floor to be detoxed from all medicines that I had been taking because there was a chance of me attempting suicide during withdraw? I was brought to room 3A which the mental health nurse said that it was also referred to as a suicide watch room. The room was clean and roomy for one person. It had a camera mounted in the ceiling and an intercom in which I never got anyone to answer on it. I was asked to take off all my clothes. I was given no mattress, bedding, pillow, shoes, soap, wash cloth, towel, tooth brush, tooth past, disinfectant, toilet paper or access to a shower. The door had an opening for a food tray and a 6” window that ran 12” from the top to about 18“ of the bottom of the door. A pay phone was across the hall from my door. Everyone that passed my room got a clear shot of my naked body. A straight jacket was thrown on the floor for me to lay on. According to the floor tiles it measured 3 foot by 5 feet unzipped. I lay on the floor naked for two days with open abrasions and bruses on my face, hand, legs and feet (from being tazered when I was arrested) until my sons could make my bond. During those two days I was denied telephone calls to my lawyer, to my family, my VA mental doctors and to my pastor. I was denied a Chaplain and was told that the jail did not have a mental health doctor. The best they had was this mental health nurse. The food wasn’t bad. Of course it was all carbohydrates. This place, like nursing homes is kept very cold to keep down bacteria and the smell. Being naked I was too cold to sleep. My left hand was swollen very badly. On the back of my hand the veins had been ruptured sometimes during or just after I was tazered. One doctor said that it could possibly have been the heel of a boot that stomped it because of the circular pattern. Until now it sounds bad but the kicker was when they brought me my food tray without utensils. Do you remember earlier that I said that I was given no soap or disinfectant or toilet paper. Well my unhurt bare hand that I cleaned my bottom with was the hand that I had to feed myself with. My finger nails needed cutting and became a breeding grounds for feces maybe E.coli?
NAMI please help if you can.