Tuesday, April 29, 2014

May Is Mental Health Month

By Mary Giliberti, J.D., NAMI Executive Director

NAMI works every day to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illness. The month of May is a time when we can join forces to make a bigger statement by observing Mental Health Month. Each year NAMI provides support, educates the public and advocates for equal care for the millions of Americans affected by illness—and each year the movement grows stronger. In 2013, President Obama proclaimed May as National Mental Health Awareness Month and brought the issue of mental health to the forefront of our thoughts.

We encourage you to speak up and step out this month—whether that’s on your own or with NAMI. We recently created a Mental Health Month resource hub online that provides ideas and activities, links to NAMI activities such as our Green Light Initiative, an opportunity to share your personal story and other ways to “go green.”

In addition, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is May 4-10. May 8 marks Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. NAMI has created resources around this important topic, including presentations and fact sheets on early identification, warning signs and statistics on mental health in youth. NAMI also offers Ending the Silence, an in-school, lived-experience presentation on mental health for high school students, as well as NAMI On Campus, a college-based club that supports students’ mental health. We also offer an online community for youth and young adults, StrengthofUs.org, where individuals can connect with peers online.

Highlighting mental health issues during May provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of the 60 million Americans affected by mental illness. Together as a nation, we need to be the champions of new ideas, education and supports that improve both treatment and life outcomes for everyone who lives with mental illness. May is a time when we can embrace and advance this bold vision for the sake of our loved ones, ourselves and the one in four adults and one in 10 children affected by mental illness every year in the United States.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

One Week in Washington: Mental Health Care Debate Continues

By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

In the course of week, mental health care has had a high profile in the nation’s capital, including legislative action.

Congress has passed two mental health measures, contained in broader legislation setting Medicare reimbursement fees for doctors. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Thursday, March 27, followed by the Senate on Monday, March 31. It now moves to the White House for the President’s signature.

One provision in the bill establishes an eight-state “pilot program” to modernize services provided by community mental health clinics. The other authorizes “demonstration program” of federal grants for outpatient treatment for individuals living with mental illness who are not participating in treatment and have experienced adverse consequences such as homelessness, repeated hospitalizations or incarceration.

As the Senate prepared to vote on the Medicare bill on March 31, Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, whose son died from suicide late last year, spoke separately at the National Press Club across town indicating that broad, sustained reform is needed in the mental health care system.

Deeds, who ran for Virginia governor in 2009, declared: “The issue is much bigger than any one person’s experience.” In the wake of his family’s tragedy, NAMI has thanked him for his courage in helping to raise national attention to the cause.

Deeds’ broad perspective echoed voices from a March 26 House hearing that initially focused on the national shortage of psychiatric hospital beds.

NAMI Executive Director Mary Giliberti observed in a press statement about then hearing that people living with mental illness are being hit by a “double whammy.” There are not enough hospital beds to meet existing needs, while other mental services also are being starved.  Those services include:

  • Mental health screening and early intervention.
  • Crisis response and stabilization programs.
  • Discharge planning.
  • Outpatient services.
  • Peer support.
  • Assertive community treatment (ACT).
  • Supportive housing.
  • Jail diversion.

On March 28, following the House hearing and House vote, the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) convened a panel discussion on mental health care and what Congress can do. It included liberal perspective from U.S. Rep Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), who noted that mental illness is not a partisan issue. It can strike anyone at any time, including both Democrats and Republicans.

One witness at the March 26 House hearing was Hakeem Rahim, a mental health educator, who shared his personal story of recovery. Rahim first began speaking publicly about his experience through NAMI’s In Our Own Voice program. He is active with New York’s NAMI Queens/Nassau Affiliate.

Another House hearing focusing on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is scheduled for April 3. Like the previous events, it will be both streamed live and posted online.