Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#ThinkPositive and Make a Difference in the Lives of Young Adults

By Audrey Alexander, NAMI intern and student at The George Washington University

#ThinkPositiveStrengthofUs.org, NAMI’s online community for young adults, has a new look for the new spring season and they are celebrating the positive changes with a #ThinkPositive social media campaign. StrengthofUs.org is designed to inspire young adults impacted by mental health issues to think positive, stay strong and achieve their goals through peer support and resource sharing.

NAMI has recently redesigned and revamped the site with a fresh look and feel to make it more mobile friendly, interactive and user-friendly. The site also includes new activities, guest blogs and content posted by StrengthofUs.org administrators on topics young adults have shared are most important to them. If young adults create an account and log in, they can also see a bunch of stuff posted by other users like blogs, discussions, media, comments and wire posts. Also, StrengthofUs.org users get exclusive access to opportunities just for them.

After three years of running the site, NAMI has seen time and again that positive messages have a big impact on the lives of young adults. In order to help spread the positive vibes, they launched the #ThinkPositive project, a social media campaign designed to inspire young adults experiencing mental health issues to stay strong and think positive, especially during difficult days. It is NAMI’s hope that the #ThinkPositive project reminds young adults across the country that they are loved, there is hope and they are not alone in their struggles. We are in this together!

Why Get Involved

I decided to get involved with the #ThinkPositive project because I believe that the need for positive thinking is something that unites everyone. Whether you know someone struggling with a mental health condition or face one yourself, it is reassuring to know that sometimes a positive message is just what it takes to turn the day around. 

I myself live with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Some days I feel overwhelmingly distracted, frustrated and discouraged. My understanding friends and family always manage to help get me back on track by offering encouraging and positive advice. I am so thankful for all that my community has given me and I feel it is only fair to pay it forward. 

I believe the #ThinkPositive project has the power to help eliminate stigma about mental health because it engages a wide range of people who share a common goal. This unity will contribute to the strength of our communities while tearing down the stigmatized boundaries and limitations of mental health conditions.

How to Get Involved

NAMI needs our help spreading the positive vibes and making a difference in the lives of young adults! So here are simple ways to get involved today with the #ThinkPositive project:
  • Post a photo of yourself holding a sign describing what makes you #ThinkPositive on our Facebook page or on StrengthofUs.org. Post signs around your college, at your workplace and in your community too. Check out the photos we've gotten so far.
  • Join StrengthofUs.org to share the sweetest parts of your day with other young adults. Post inspirational blogs and wire posts with quotes, advice, updates and strategies to motivate your peers to think positive and stay strong.
  • Get together your friends, family members and coworkers to create an encouraging slideshow and upload it to YouTube. If you are part of a NAMI on Campus club, get your whole campus community involved in the project. Check out the Think Positive video that StrengthofUs.org created with MakeDC Smile. If you make a video, let us know so we can link to it!
  • Follow us on Twitter @StrengthofUs and use the hashtags #ThinkPositive and #StrengthofUs to let us know what helps you think positive and stay strong.
  • Follow us on Pinterest to access boards full of inspiring messages, motivating photos and helpful tips for staying happy and healthy.
When my friend also got involved with the #ThinkPositive project, she said that “It is easy to get stuck in a negative slump, but it is even easier to share something positive.” I hope you find it just as easy to get online and start sharing some positivity.

What do you plan to share?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Two Voices Speak Out from among the 26 Percent who Live with Mental Illness

Annmarie Timmins, age 9 (left), with her brother on vacation
in Franconia Notch, N.H.
By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

It takes courage for people who live with mental illness to tell others about it.

Some people tell no one. Some are selective— telling only a few family or friends.

Others “go public,” embracing maximum vulnerability, particularly if it extends to the workplace.

Two spectacular profiles in courage have arisen this week.

One is Lisa Halpern, who wrote “What It's Like to Have Schizophrenia,” published in the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal,  It’s an incredible story that details on how she became lost in her own reality and then came to terms a with diagnosis.

“I learned so much, I decided I wanted to help others who'd been through a similar nightmare,” Lisa writes. “Now I have a full-time job working with people who have mental-health issues. I teach, arrange events, speak to groups and mentor patients. I want them to know that recovery is possible.”

The other is Annmarie Timmins, a reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

The newspaper recently published a four-day series, “In Crisis” about the state’s mental health care system. Some reader comments questioned whether the number of people living with mental illness is really as high as “about” one in four adult Americans.

In response, Annmarie wrote a personal story: “I'm one of the 26 percent with mental illness.” 

“I have been hospitalized twice for ‘suicidal ideation’ most recently for eight days in 2009 with a diagnosis of ‘major depressive order and anxiety disorder,’ according to my records,” she wrote.

“I take four medications a day and have my counselor’s name and number in my emergency contacts on my cell phone.”

It was the first time Annemarie had shared her story publicly. Not even many of her family knew.

“I cannot believe what changes this story has begun even within a couple of days,” Annemarie later wrote in an exchange of emails with NAMI. “I've heard from hundreds of people from all over the country who said the piece has encouraged them to ask for the help they need. I've had lawmakers write to say the piece put a new face they hadn't seen on mental illness. My own family members have written to say they too struggle with illness but never knew how to ask for help.”

“I think that bodes well for all of us who struggle. Out of nearly 400 responses, I have not received a single critical or unkind note. I wish I could spread this support to everyone who is struggling.”

She already has.

By sharing their stories, Lisa and Annemarie have already inspired and given support to more people than either of them can imagine. The inspiration extends not just to the 26 percent who live with mental illness, but to our larger  communities as well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Experience So Far as a NAMI Family Support Group Facilitator

By Marjorie Antus, NAMI Prince William (Va.)

The remarkable thing about the NAMI Family Support Group is how relaxed it is. My sense of peace during the sessions probably stems from having attended only three sessions to date as a co-facilitator and, thus, from not having experienced the outbreak of raw emotion that likely occurs from time to time.

But I also credit Jeri Weeks, the lead facilitator, for the relaxed environment. She welcomes everyone, laughs a great deal, and encourages openness with forthright stories of her own life as mother of a man with schizophrenia.

In the bereavement support groups I once facilitated, in the NAMI Family Support Group, and also in the NAMI Family-to-Family class I currently attend, I have never failed to see a wonderful dynamic unfold. Many participants seem not to want to walk through the door on the evening of the first session; I among them. That’s obvious from the worried looks. By the third week, however, many come through the meeting room door smiling. It’s almost like clockwork, the camaraderie that takes hold over two weeks.

One of the most striking aspects of the support groups overall is, I think, humor. I expected and have seen tearfulness. I expected and have seen fear, frustration and sadness. What I didn’t expect was genuine laughter—a kind of delight—coming from people who are living with mystifying family relationships over which they sometimes have little control. That was a revelation to me. 

There are two reasons for my becoming a NAMI Family Support Group facilitator. The first is that my teenage daughter died by suicide in 1995. My need to talk about my daughter and her death was immense at the time, but almost no one was capable of sitting with me through the intensity. A support group would have been a safe place to be heard, so that is what I try to provide others as facilitator: a safe place to be heard.

The second reason is that I have a grown son with schizoaffective disorder who is living with my husband and me in a stable and good way. It is mostly concern for John Paul’s future that motivates me to help build the NAMI community.