Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mental Illness: Let the Dialogue Begin

By Mike Fitzpatrick, NAMI Executive Director

On Monday, June 3, President Obama hosted a White House Conference on Mental Health. It was remarkable in several respects.

For one, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, celebrities Bradley Cooper, Glenn Close and other participants were all singing the same song—articulating messages that could have been taken from NAMI’s own website. In fact, some of them were.

NAMI members were thrilled, for example that the conference website includes a NAMI video with poet, author and advocate Yashi Brown—who also participated in the conference.

The President’s remarks proclaimed a goal of bringing mental illness “out of the shadows,” ending stigma and elevating mental health concerns to the level of a national dialogue. 

The conference was not about preaching to the choir. Leaders from the mental health community participated, but so did representatives of broader communities such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the National Baptists Convention, U.S. and Save the Children—and social media leaders such as Facebook, Google, Upworthy and Web M.D.

The conference also a represents a new model—in which  the dialogue begun at the White House event will purposely extend over time to other communities in other places. The initiative is not branded—neither the presidential seal, the NAMI logo nor the imprint of any other organization appears on the website. The identity is simply “the national conference.” The goal is a broad national movement for change.

The White House released a list of list of initiatives that specific groups will undertake as part of the dialogue, including one in which NAMI is partnering with the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and North American Interfraternity Council (NIC) cited by the White House to deliver mental health education presentations on approximately 800 campuses starting this fall.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) which represents television and radio stations and networks, will launch a national public service announcement (PSA) campaign to combat stigma.

One of the purposes of any conference is to bring people from diverse background together, focus on a common interest and both build and energize a broader community

The White House conference accomplished that purpose. At one point, as I sat a break-out session with eight other people, I was gratified to realize that three of them already had connections to NAMI in some way. With our grassroots network of NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates nationwide, we are well-situated to influence the dialogue—as the largest grassroots mental health organization in the country.

The conference was historic, but we must keep it in perspective.

Talk precedes action. The role of conferences is to help stimulate action. But they are not a substitute for action.

The real challenge is to expand awareness and support for improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. That means creating a mental health care system that is truly accessible to all who need it, when they need it.

In 2000, President Clinton convened the first White House Conference on Mental Health. In 2003, President Bush created a Presidential Commission on Mental Health.  They resulted in some progress, particularly in enacting mental health insurance parity.

But there is still a long way to go.

The White House Conference recognizes that real change happens through communities.

It is a call to keep building on progress. It is a call to build new partnerships and to expand health care—including Medicaid, which NAMI recently highlighted in a special report.

It is a call for support of young people, veterans, and families affected by mental illness.

It is a call for scientific research.

It is a call for early identification and treatment.

Ultimately, it is a call for national investment.

Let the dialogue begin.


Heather Harper said...

I am so happy to read this right now because I really want to create a local support group in Muncie, IN, which has limited resources for folks like myself who experience a personality disorder. I am inspired more than ever to try to be one of the people who helps break down the stigma attached to mental illness and support others in this struggle.

swiyyah said...


Anonymous said...

The worse thing anyone who suffers from a nervous condition would be to think they are mentaly ill.
I have suffered from nervous symptoms for many years till I found Recovery Inc.Since then I have enjoyed life without chronic symptoms.people should not fear nervous symptoms as they are very common in everyone.
All this talk about "mental illness'only serves to instill fear into people and does no good only great harm.
learning how to train the nerve is what is needed the most.

Anonymous said...

Hell yeah!! I like what I hear.

Ed Kirby said...

They are people like us living with an illness they did not ask for and often cannot identify or even understand. We know most of the mentally ill by name. We call them father, mother, son, daughter, grandparent, neighbor, aunt, cousin, co-worker, friend or even "me."

Anonymous said...

This news is so encouraging. I pray that it is not yet another ray of hope that fades due to lack of ACTION. Talk is important but becomes worthless without sustained action. I belive we, and most especially NAMI, cannot let one more day go by where discrimination and abuse are allowed to continue in silence. NAMI must be loudly vocal and continuously visible. We have been in the shadows, have accepted crumbs, have tolerated discrimination and abuse far too long. Advocate for any other group would not tolerate what advocates for the mentally ill have tolerated for all these many years. Our silence indicates that we accept treatment that is unacceptable. We must compete for research funding, for REAL treatment, for fairness in insurance, housing, employment. And when denied we need to shout louder. Other have and succeeded - why not us? The time for patience, meekness, accepting in silence must come to an end. My loved one has waited 40 years. Please NAMI, be what you were meant to be and please hurry.

Gerald Bouthner said...

As a mental health advocate and bipolar sufferer for 20 years I am very encouraged by the conference. A seed for improvement is planted but in order for it to grow into something of substance for the mentally ill we need to reap real programs to reduce the stigma we experience from others.

We need programs that reduce the self stigma that often keeps people from seeking treatment to get more people to seek treatment. We need to increase the amount of mental health care workers to provide help for those who are reaching out for it. Already many of our mental health care systems are overloaded, if more are seeking treatment more workers will be needed.

Anonymous said...

Let Them "...put their money where their mouth is..."
They now are taking money and benefits away from people on social security who desperately need it to bring up children and compete with ignorance and arrogance.

Anonymous said...

As a conservator of a severely mentally ill family member, it is heartening to see any movement toward availability of appropriate clinical treatment for those whose diseases would benefit. Access to that treatment is the problem now. While encouragement to seek treatment is an awesome force, that treatment needs to be swift at the request. To me it is inhumane for someone to have to wait weeks or months when they need help. No other disease category that I am aware of is treated this way. Talk into action is now the mantra......

MauraMia said...

As a parent of three adopted children, one with severe trauma and attachment disruption-rooted mental illness, I couldn't be more pleased with this new effort. Early childhood trauma is a significant mental health issue that impacts our entire society. As a parent, I have the responsibility to care for my children and raise them to be successful adults, but I do not have the authority to make hard, necessary choices to help heal my troubled child. For this, parents are judged, accused, blamed - not supported. This must change.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how the expansion works I am currently disabled because of mental illness and other physical disabilities, and I do have Medicaid right now in my state I am still allowed to see the medical providers that I saw when I was working and had private insurance some of whom I have been seeing since 1998. Being able to see my current providers is crucial to my continued progress and mental health. I am afraid the expansion will force everyone to use community mental health centers I have friends who go to these places and they have not been given the best care or been treated with the respect they deserve. I do think that everyone should have access to care but they should not be forced into community mental health centers. Does anyone know if that is what will happen and/or is it different for each state?

Anonymous said...

Any action toward removing the stigma of mental problems is a step in the right direction. I have OCD and luckily there is a wonderful support group in Fairfield, Ct. Having mental health issues is no picnic. Life is not easy all the time for anyone, but I hope that this positive movement continues for people with mental health issues. Peace.

Kim Furtyo said...

My son Michael was 32 years old when he hung himself in the garage after living 14 years with bipolar and schizophrenia. The help out there for him was so limited. There was never any support for my husband, myself, or my other son. We kept him with us all his life and took care of him. He took his life May 12th 2011. I am ready now to become involved and take action and help make a change. NAMI has been my first step. I want to make a change for other people with mental illness and also their families. This is my first step since my son's suicide. I was his total care taker all these years and where ever I turned for help there was none. That has to change.

Debbie White said...

Anonymous stated: "The worse thing anyone who suffers from a nervous condition would be to think they are mentaly ill." I have to say that not all mental illnesses would be considered a nervous condition. People need to understand that mental illness is real and if you know you have it, you can get treatment. If you are sick, you go to the doctor. Why can't someone with a mental illness be treated the same way and not have limits on how much treatment they can receive, if it is truly needed. As a parent of a child with nine different diagnoses ranging from periventricular leukamalacia to bipolar and Autism, I never knew how to help my son until we knew what he had. That made it easier to give him the help he needed. We need to educate the world about mental illness because you can't see it and people tend to judge them differently than someone with a physical condition. I hope the government takes mental health serious and helps those of us who need the help!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have suffered from depression since childhood. People, even in my own family don't understand how limiting it can be to life and energy levels. Please let the sunlight in on this life-threatening issue!

Siri Begley said...

From the bottom of my heart I feel ineffable gratitude toward President Obama and everyone else that is trying to advance treatment and awareness and reduce the humiliating stigma that so many of us have had to endure. I also pray that all of this really happens, and that it is not just fluff. All psychiatric conditions should be considered with the same amount of respect given to other conditions, such as MS, Parkinson's, narcolepsy, epilepsy, etc etc etc. I really hope some good comes out of all this, and I hope that President Obama et al reads this and feels my gratitude.

Anonymous said...

Those afflicted with mental illness did not seek it out or ask for it. Our society needs to improve the system, since it is broken. As a mother of an adult son with serious mental illness, it is heartbreaking to have someone in need.... and not being sent to crisis prior to increased inappropriate behaviors. Numerous times the family tries to get the person help and the system turns them away until more damage has been done. Please let laws change to prevent worsening of episodes before those in need get help. This is to help them and others from their riisky and dangerous actions. Prayers for preventative laws and assistance and resources for those living with mental illness.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if people with cancer were treated or kept from their meds like those with mental illnesses? What an uproar everyone would be in. When will illnesses that people can't "see" be taken seriously? I am tired of beaurocrats who can afford private care not caring about the rest of us. I am also worried about what will happen when the next president, which we all know will be a staunch conserative if history serves us, will to knock down anything that gets done. I am hoping this doesn't happen!

Anonymous said...

While politician’s always say what they want you to hear, history show that they seldom do.

Please NAMI look further into the meeting. It is simply a smoke screen as our government destroys our HIPPA laws:

Washington Examiner: June 17, 2013
Obamacare will share personal health info with federal, state agencies
By PAUL BEDARD | JUNE 17, 2013 AT 8:10 AM
Topics: Health Care Washington Secrets
A new rule requires state, federal and local agencies as well as health insurers to swap the protected personal health information of anybody seeking to join the new health care program that will be enforced by the Internal Revenue Service.
A new 253-page Obamacare rule issued late Friday requires state, federal and local agencies as well as health insurers to swap the protected personal health information of anybody seeking to join the new health care program that will be enforced by the Internal Revenue Service.
Protected health information, or PHI, is highly protected under federal law, but the latest ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services allows agencies to trade the information to verify that Obamacare applicants are getting the minimum amount of health insurance coverage they need from the health "exchanges."
The ruling, explained on pages 72-73 of the book-thick guidance, does not mention any requirement that applicants first OK the release of their PHI. HHS already allows some exchange of PHI without an individual's pre-approval, especially when for a "government program providing public benefits." Officials said the swapping of information is simply meant to help figure the best insurance coverage of Obamacare users.

Roberts Tracy said...

This sounds a great initiative taken for a social cause in regards to the health benefit of the society. NYC Psychiatrist

Anonymous said...

This is my lifes work, glad to read this.