Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Countdown to Recovery: Voices of Hope

What inspires you? Who were the people who stood by you and helped you along the way? How did you get through the tough days and weeks?

These are the stories we want you to share with us and the rest of the NAMI community this December. As part of our Countdown to Recovery campaign we are spreading stories of hope throughout the holiday season.

Your stories that you share are extremely important. They can serve as a voice of help for others. Knowing that someone went through the same or similar experiences as they are going through and made it through can provide them the strength to battle through the trying times.

The stories you share can also help in the healing process. Remembering the important people and specific times that were helpful to you can remind you of the just how far you’ve come and how much success you’ve already had.

Sharing stories also can fight the enduring stigma of mental illness. Stories can show people who may not be familiar with mental illness that it can affect anyone regardless of race, creed, age or any other demographic. Mental illness is largely a genetic illness and is not the fault of the individual who has been diagnosed with it.

So how will we share these stories?—how will we spread these stories of recovery, these voices of hope?—to thousands of people not only across the United States, but around the world? Here at NAMI we are looking to social media sites such as NAMI’s Facebook and Twitter pages to let hope be heard.

During Countdown to Recovery we will post weekly questions to help get discussions started among our followers. Questions such as, ‘What are three tips for staying on the road to recovery?’ ‘What’s your favorite way to stay active and make sure your mind and body is healthy?’

On Twitter, we’ve created the hashtag #namic2r to bring all of the responses into one easy to find place. Join the conversation! Or start one of your own!

As more and more individuals begin to follow us, we only hope that the burgeoning discussions will continue. Spreading stories of recovery and hope will help bring the topic of mental illness to forefront of people’s thoughts and will not only instill hope but ensure equality for all individuals and their families living with mental illness.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Organization Provides Resources and Support to Native Americans

By Gwendolyn Packard, Co-Chair, Rain Cloud

Last month I had the honor to meet so many amazing, wonderful, powerful, empowered people and get a glimpse at what is going on in the rest of the world in the wellness and recovery movement at the 2011 “Coming Home” Alternatives Conference. It was the perfect environment, both nurturing and supportive, for introducing Rain Cloud to the national community.

In commemorating National Native American Heritage Month, I would like to highlight and share Rain Cloud with the whole NAMI community. Rain Cloud is a local collaborative that was created as a result of the state of New Mexico’s behavioral health transformation initiative, which began in 2005. Rain Cloud, represents the off reservation Indian community in Albuquerque, New Mexico and was allowed local collaborative status in January 2009.

Behavioral health resources are almost non-existent for Indian people in Albuquerque. Often, the only help available is medication or incarceration, and neither one of these is a suitable solution for us. We know there is so much more we can do. The action statement for Rain Cloud is “Embracing, Engaging and Empowering Our Community.” We are about movement building to create change and so far have done an outstanding job of mobilizing and engaging our community.

The Rain Cloud logo represents our core values. The Rain Cloud is the universal symbol for potential, growth, nurturance and life sustainability. Symbolically, here in the southwest, the rain cloud represents the answers to our prayers. Represented in dances and ceremonies we ask for blessings in the way of moisture for our deserts and high country. Water is one of the four elements along with earth, air and fire. There is not one without the other just as there cannot be the body without our mind, soul and spirit. We are integral beings living in a complex society in the urban environment. The Rain Cloud is representative of what our hopes and goals stand for as a local collaborative—a catalyst for renewal and an organization that cultivates personal growth, respect for culture, diversity, self sufficiency and celebration of community for the honor of all.

New Mexico has one of the largest Indian populations in the United States. Indian people in New Mexico account for 11 percent of the population. Albuquerque has the third largest off reservation Indian population in the country. An estimated 60,000 Indian people live in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, New Mexico. It is important to note that many off reservation Indians in Albuquerque are from the surrounding tribal communities in New Mexico, that vast majority are from the Navajo Nation.

While New Mexico ranks low in almost every socio-economic indicator, Indian communities, especially the off reservation communities rank even lower. Racism, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, alcohol and substance abuse, and violence, along with a lack of resources and a unified or united community have had a disastrous impact on our community.

Rain Cloud was created in response to the total lack of resources for off reservation Indians in Albuquerque and the associated appalling socio economic indicators of our people. Rain Cloud is a grass roots community based organization. We are almost completely consumer and family driven. Rain Cloud is comprised of off reservation Indian people and was established to address many of these disparities and to insure that all Indians have a voice in their treatment and access to culturally appropriate services.

Rain Cloud is concerned with the emotional, physical, spiritual, family, social and cultural well-being and health of our people. Our motto in addressing these concerns is “Unity through Integrity.”

We have established the following principles and core values for ourselves, they are:

  • Respect for all life on this planet
  • Respect the rights, culture and autonomy of each individual and each community
  • Honor the choices and decisions that people make
  • Support the changes that individuals, families and communities request
  • Work to restore balance and a sense of belonging
  • Involve and include people in our community from all walks of life
  • Integrate traditional and western knowledge of healing concepts
  • Promote individual and community health to support economic development and viability
  • Analyze and integrate the impact of race, class, gender and other cultural factors into our work
  • Uphold and support our youth who bring energy and innovation into our vision
  • Value the voices and the participation of all our people
  • Speak the truth and provide valuable education and information on a continuous basis to our community
  • Create and maintain an informed community
  • Engage and encourage family and community people and grassroots and community-based groups in an ongoing dialogue to strengthen their impact on policies and strategies

We are committed to: Respect; Inclusion; Ownership; Relationship/Kinship Building and Leadership Development throughout this process.

Rain Cloud does not dwell on the negative aspects of our community. Instead, we focus on the tools we need to become strong, to challenge the systems in place that keep us down, to build our organization, to develop an active and educated membership and ultimately to create change in our community. Indian health does not just mean the physical wellness of the individual; it is the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community in which each individual resides. If our community is unhealthy, we are unhealthy and if we are unhealthy, our community is unhealthy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Staying Informed! Mental Health News from Around the Country

By Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Coordinator

From local events to tips to staying healthy to groundbreaking research studies, NAMI provides the most up-to-date information on mental illness from around the country on the NAMI Twitter page every day.

Keeping you informed about current mental health issues and what NAMI is up to as it happens is extremely important to us. Twitter allows us to let you know about the latest information on treatments or mental illness as soon as we know about it ourselves. If you have access to the most up-to-date information it can help you can make the best choices for you and your loved ones—or simply learn something new.

Connecting with NAMI on Twitter also gives you an easy way to contact and let us know what’s happening in your neighborhood!

Just in case you missed them, here are the five most popular links from last week:

NAMI Logo NAMICommunicate NAMI
Stories from Vets struggling with #PTSD come from all across the country: http://ow.ly/7u4cq via @KPCC
15 Nov@NAMICommunicate

NAMI Logo NAMICommunicate NAMI
Put your #mentalhealth first during the holidays: http://ow.ly/7u5vG
15 Nov@NAMICommunicate

NAMI Logo NAMICommunicate NAMI
Juveniles with Mental Illness Often Cycle In And Out Of Detention: http://ow.ly/7sM8V via @KUOW
14 Nov@NAMICommunicate

NAMI Logo NAMICommunicate NAMI
According to a provocative article published in Nature, #autism can actually be an advantage in some areas: http://ow.ly/7sNHu
14 Nov@NAMICommunicate

NAMI Logo NAMICommunicate NAMI
28 states, DC cut $1.7B in #mentalhealth funding: http://ow.ly/7r5XR
11 Nov@NAMICommunicate

To stay informed and get the latest information from NAMI as it happens just follow us on Twitter!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Deepening Crisis in Mental Health Funding

By Ron Honberg, NAMI Director of Policy and Legal Affairs

There is no easy way of saying it. After more than four years of budget cutting in many states, the mental health safety net is seriously frayed. In total, more than $1.6 billion in general funds has been cut from state mental health budgets since 2009. When funds under the control of other state agencies such as housing and child and adolescent services or Medicaid are factored in, the sum of the total cuts is undoubtedly significantly higher.

South Carolina has cut its state mental health budget by the highest percentage, 39.3 percent since 2009, Alabama by 36 percent, Alaska by 32.6 percent, Illinois 31.7 percent and Nevada 28.1 percent. In terms of actual dollars, California has cut a staggering $764.8 million in state mental health funding during this time period, New York $204.9 million and Illinois $187 million.

When cuts of this magnitude occur, our entire society pays a huge price. In some states, both inpatient and community services have been sharply eroded; a penny wise, pound foolish strategy that does not save money at all and only ends up shifting higher costs to emergency rooms, jails and prisons, and homeless shelters. For example:

  • In Illinois, three of the state’s nine psychiatric hospitals are slated to close. 5,000 children and adults living with serious mental illnesses could be cut off from services.
  • In Nevada, a state that has cut mental health funding by 28 percent since 2009, suicide rates are among the highest in the nation.
  • In Michigan, a state among those hit hardest by the budget crisis, the Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency has absorbed about $30 million in cuts since the fall of 2008, leading to the elimination of downsizing of mental health programs throughout Detroit, including those serving people who are homeless and living with mental illnesses.

Until 2011, Medicaid was largely spared from budget cuts because of federal stimulus funds.  As these stimulus funds expired in June 2011, states are facing $14 billion in potential losses from federal Medicaid revenues. To respond, states such as Arizona and Ohio have begun to divert mental health dollars to Medicaid and away from uninsured individuals with serious mental illnesses who do not have Medicaid. Other states may follow suit.

NAMI’s report contains three policy recommendations. First, mental health services should be protected and strengthened and mental health spending cuts should be restored. Second, data collection and outcomes measurement in determining the value and effectiveness of specific mental health services must be improved. Finally, access to acute care and long term care services must be preserved.

What You Can Do?

Now is the time to contact your Governor and state legislators and urge them to protect or restore funding for mental health services. NAMI has developed talking points and a sample letter for you to use in advocating for adequate mental health funding. This information can be found here.

All of the data, published in the report State Mental Health Cuts: The Continuing Crisis, including information about how your state is doing in funding mental health care, can be found at State Budget Cuts Report

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans and Mental Health: We Owe Them Better

By Mike Fitzpatrick, NAMI Executive Director

Veterans Day, Nov. 11, honors men and women who have served in our country's armed forces. We owe them our thanks. Unfortunately that doesn't always extend to the health care they receive.

Last year, more than 1.2 million veterans were treated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, about a third for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That is an increase of about 25 percent from four years before, as troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Washington Post reports that approximately 18 veterans die from suicide every day. Yet in survey released in September, the VA reported that 70 percent of its doctors, nurses and social workers believe the system lacks the staff and space to provide adequate mental health care. More than 37 percent said they cannot schedule an appointment for a new patient within 14-days.

The study was requested by the Senate Veterans Committee after a hearing in which former Army infantryman Daniel Williams testified for NAMI's behalf, describing how he was told there would be a six-month wait before he could get an appointment with a psychiatrist.. He testified that he attempted suicide with a .45 caliber pistol, "but by the grace of God, the weapon misfired."

In October, a study by the RAND Corporation found "large discrepancies" in the quality of care in different VA facilities across the country. Three received ratings of about 75 percent. Nine were below 25 percent.

NAMI maintains an on-line Veterans Resource Center. We advocate for veterans before Congress. In some VA facilities, we offer Family-to-Family education and support programs for the families of veterans. We continue to promote action and awareness within the military and VA and produce podcasts and other resources to empower active duty, veterans and their families to seek help and support. We are proud of those contributions, but we know that much more is needed.

On Veterans Day, as a nation, we must commit to doing more over the long haul. That will be the true measure of honoring the men and women who deserve our thanks for their willingness to serve.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NAMI Education Programs Making Strides in the Spanish-language Community

By Carmen Argueta, NAMI Program Coordinator and Spanish Programs Specialist

About a year ago I joined the NAMI Education, Training and Peer Support Center. I was thrilled at this opportunity, as I would be working to help our education programs grow, especially within the Latino community. I was familiar with NAMI’s education programs but had not experienced firsthand the truly life changing impact they had on people’s lives—something which was evidenced so clearly at our national training event this past October in St. Louis.

For the first time ever, we hosted an all-Spanish training for Conexión NAMI facilitators and De Familia a Familia teachers. Not only was this a milestone for NAMI, it also held special significance for me as a Latina. I was able to interact with the participants of both programs and was able to see them grow together as a group and individually in a very short period of time. They went from starting as strangers to on the road to becoming life-long friends—united in a common goal. I knew they would take something home from the training that would help their community, a community that has to bear the effects of a self-imposed stigma due to the nature of our culture. I could not help but feel hopeful and see such promise for the future.

Alongside these Spanish-language program trainings was the first NAMI Parents and Teachers as Allies Training of Trainers since 2008. It was fortuitous for me to be able to participate in this training and its surrounding events as I was able to engage in an event that I had heard so much about but had never been able to be directly involved in. Parents and Teachers as Allies is a tremendous program that helps individuals within school communities better understand the early warning signs of mental illness in children and adolescents and the most effective way to intervene so that each child’s specific needs can be met.

I was also involved in creating an educational video that is slated to be released in early 2012 and was also asked to talk about multicultural outreach on the last day of training. I spoke about outreach from personal experience and was so pleased to hear afterwards how well it was received. I had no idea how strongly it would resonate with the participants, who asked questions and saw practical uses for various cultural groups in their areas.

The training in St. Louis was an excellent event that I’m sure produced top notch facilitators, teachers and state trainers who will reach out and break down the barriers and stigma of mental illness to not only the Latino community but to so many others as well.