Monday, January 27, 2014

60 Minutes: Here's the Full Story

By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

On Jan. 26, CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired "Nowhere to Go: Mentally Ill Youth in Crisis," an important story that has helped raise attention to failures in the mental health care system affecting young people and their families.

The full story includes an interview with a young man in an emergency room who had been experiencing suicidal ideation and a frank discussion with a group of mothers.

The centerpiece, however, is an interview with Virginia state senator and former gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, whose 24-year-old son, Gus attacked him and then died by suicide in Nov. 2013. The tragedy involved a prominent politician and his son, but could just as easily have happened to anyone. 

Gus, who lived with bipolar disorder, had been discharged from a hospital emergency room the day before the tragedy because no psychiatric beds were available in the local or nearby communities.  “I really don't want Gus to be defined by his illness,” declares Senator Deeds in the interview. “I don't want Gus to be defined by what happened…Gus was a great kid. He was a perfect son. It's clear the system failed.”

Don’t Miss 60 Minutes Overtime

A supplemental video report, "The Stigma of Raising a Mentally Ill Child," is posted on the 60 Minutes website (and embedded at the top of this blog), providing additional discussion that includes a focus on the stigma that families often confront when a child lives with mental illness.

It took CBS News almost eight month to compile interviews for the story. “The really difficult part is to get anyone to come onto television to talk about it,” said CBS news anchor Scott Pelley. “Imagine being a parent appearing on 60 Minutes to talk about the serious mental illness of your child? Very hard to do.”

NAMI applauds CBS News for the report and especially those individuals who courageously participated in the interviews.
We are also grateful that  CBS News included on the 60 Minutes website at the end of each story’s text the following editor’s note:  Families in need of help with a mentally ill child can find resources at the National Alliance on Mental Illness: www.nami.org or 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264).

NAMI also offers the following fact sheet and programs for family education:

What Families Can Do
NAMI Family-to-Family
NAMI Basics

Friday, January 24, 2014

60 Minutes Will Focus on Father and Son Tragedy—For Lack of a Bed

By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

CBS News’ 60 Minutes will air a story on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. EST/PST with an example of a tragic failure of the mental health care system for youth, involving a prominent politician and his son— a tragedy that could happen to anyone.

The segment is the first television interview with Virginia state senator and former gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, whose 24-year-old son, Gus, died by suicide this past November after attacking his father.

Brioadcast Preview

CBS News has posted a video excerpt from the interview in advance on the 60 Minutes website.
“I really don't want Gus to be defined by his illness. I don't want Gus to be defined by what happened…Gus was a great kid. He was a perfect son. It's clear the system failed,” Deeds says in the interview

For Want of a Bed, a Son Was Lost

Gus, who lived with bipolar disorder, had been discharged from a hospital emergency room the day before the tragedy because no psychiatric beds were available in the local or nearby communities.

In the media firestorm that followed the tragedy, MSNBC.com noted that nationally “the number of psychiatric beds has been steadily declining as hospitals moved away from institutionalizing patients and budget cuts have taken hold. The number of hospital beds in freestanding psychiatric hospitals has dropped 13 percent between 2002 and 2011.”

According to the Washington Post, individuals with mental illness account for 7 to 10 percent of emergency room visits. They sometimes receive no treatment for days or even weeks “while social workers try to chase down open spots in psychiatric wards.”

Helping Families

Broadcasts like the one scheduled for Sunday, inevitably result in people asking where to get help themselves. NAMI offers the following fact sheet and programs for family education.

What Families Can Do
NAMI Family-to-Family
NAMI Basics
There also is the NAMI website and the NAMI HelpLine at 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264).

Monday, January 13, 2014

I’m New on the Job. So Why NAMI? Why Now?

By Mary Giliberti, NAMI Executive Director

This is my first blog entry as NAMI’s new executive director and my second full week on the job. In starting my new job, I am deliberately spending much of my time listening to NAMI members and others and learning from them.

One question I am asked is why I wanted to become NAMI's executive director.

In some ways, it reflects two questions that can be posed to any one of us.

Why NAMI? Why now?

For me, it begins with my commitment to NAMI’s mission: helping to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness I’ve seen the difference that NAMI’s education, support and advocacy can make. From 2006 to late 2008, I served as NAMI’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. After working for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, becoming NAMI’s executive director has been like coming home. We share a strong sense of mission based on common values, which I believe draw all of us to NAMI.

NAMI is the home for many people who often are unable to get all the help they need out of the mental health care system. We are a beacon of hope that helps them navigate through a fragmented, confusing system—and provides hope for the future.

NAMI’s greatest strength is its people, which is the second reason why I wanted to be executive director. NAMI’s grassroots members and volunteers are the heart of our organization, along with the leaders of NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates. Our grassroots include people who teach NAMI Family-to-Family classes or facilitate NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups. They include people who walk in NAMIWalks or meet with state legislators. They include people who rely on NAMI’s website for information or who share encouragement on NAMI’s Facebook page. Together, they are a source of passion, inspiration, energy and resilience that not only helps other people directly—but also is tremendous force for change.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. We are an organization of great diversity that steadily has become more inclusive as we have grown. Within the NAMI family, there sometimes are disagreements on issues, but there is always more that unites us than divides us and when we work together, we have more power than we know.

The opportunities that exist for NAMI at this moment in time are the third reason I wanted to be NAMI’s executive director. It’s the answer to the “Why Now?” question, which everyone should ask themselves. As NAMI prepares to redouble its work, everyone’s help is needed, including yours.

America is finally waking up to the need to provide treatment and support for persons living with mental illness. In 2013, everyone from the President to governors and other policymakers talked about mental health care and hopes for recovery. Our challenge today is to make sure that the national dialogue does not stop in 2014 and to make sure that dialogue leads to action. Change must mean progress, not broken promises.

We also are experiencing rapid changes in the health care system overall. The Affordable Care Act is one of the forces driving change, but there are others, including mental health insurance parity. NAMI needs to be at the forefront in advancing new ideas to improve treatment and life outcomes for people living with mental illness. We must not settle for “more of the same,” because more of the same is not enough. It is not acceptable that anyone be allowed to fall through the cracks due to neglect or an unresponsive system of care.

That’s why I’ve come back to NAMI.

NAMI is more than an organization, we are a movement—the one that can make the greatest difference. Now is the time to affirm commitments to our mission. NAMI is needed today more than ever before.

As we proceed, I want to hear your thoughts. I may not be able to reply to every comment I receive, but please be assured; I will read all of them. To get in touch with me and offer your comments and suggestions please email YourComments@nami.org. I will be writing more blog entries as part of an ongoing dialogue. I hope you will continue to join me in those discussions.