Friday, May 23, 2014

Honoring Our Nation’s Heroes

By JB Moore, NAMI Military and Veterans Policy and Support Manager

Memorial Day is a time to pay tribute to America’s heroes whose lives have been lost in service to this country.  

As we remember and pause to appreciate and celebrate the sacrifices of these heroes, it is important to be mindful that not all lives lost in defense of our country were lost on the battlefield.   Sadly, many lives have been lost to suicide.  

The statistics are staggering, 22 veterans and 1 service member take their lives each day – while the number of suicides among their family members go uncounted.

Many of these individuals have suffered wounds of war that are psychological in nature and not always easily seen. Such “invisible” wounds can be severe and life threatening. They can also be healed, given the proper care.

Symptoms of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, may not surface for months or even years; and are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or untreated.  

In fact, some Veterans are dying while awaiting treatment, while the Veterans Administration continues to struggle to meet veterans’ mental health care needs, in areas including:

·Ensuring adequate coordination, monitoring, and staffing for oversight of contracted mental health patient care

·Implementing adequate facility and program policies to address patient care safety, monitoring patients and providing program oversight at inpatient mental health care facilities and

·Complying with VA requirements for effective, safe medication management program; sufficiently documenting patients’ care in a timely manner; and providing adequate professional support for professional staff at post traumatic stress disorder mental health residential rehabilitation program sites.

Today, you have an opportunity to act! 

Support the “Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 (S. 2300).” This legislation, introduced by Senator Joe Donnelly (D - Ind.), requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct periodic mental health assessments for members of the Armed Forces, and to determine which members are in need of mental health care and treatment.

Contact your Member of Congress and ask him or her to co-sponsor and support the bill.

Acting now is an ideal way to honor the sacrifices that our brave men, women—and their families—have made.

Thank you for your advocacy and wishing you and your families a happy holiday weekend!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Miles for Mental Health

By Katrina Gay, NAMI Director of Communications

Setting a goal to get in shape for the summer? Or just like to stay active and go hiking, bike riding or walking?

Do you want to do all that and raise awareness for mental health and support NAMI at the same time?

To provide individuals who want to engage in social networks in support of their fitness goals while raising awareness and funds for NAMI, NAMI has partnered with Geared for Good to launch a new fitness/fundraising campaign: Miles for Mental Health.

Just launched in recognition of May as Mental Health Month and continuing through mid-October, following Mental Illness Awareness Week, you can join this online community, get the word out, encourage your efforts and connect with your family and friends, giving them the opportunity to make an online donation to support your efforts on behalf of NAMI.

Many people affected by mental illness have told us that fundraising gives them a sense of empowerment. By fighting back to counter the ignorance and stereotypes that remain barriers for so many, you are also raising much needed awareness.
Join us in racking up fitness miles while fundraising to help us build better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Our goal: A collective 100,000 miles and $100,000. It's a long way to go, but we can do it, with your support!

Joining only takes a few moments, and there’s no obligation and no minimum fundraising amount. Any activity you do that can be measured or estimated in miles counts toward our goal. Walk, run, bike, swim, indoor cycle, dance, you name it—it’s your choice!

Joining is easy:

  1. Go to the campaign website at and Click the “Join Campaign” button.
  2. Set your distance and fundraising goals—use your sports tracker to register progress or enter your information manually.
  3. Use the tools available on the site, including email templates and pictures and badges, to invite your friends and family to donate in support of NAMI and your efforts.

And off you go! If you use a GPS sports tracker while your exercise (e.g., Garmin, RunKeeper), you can easily import your data with the click of a button.

Join individually, start or join a team, and invite others to participate alongside you from anywhere in the world. And, as an option, you can use your Facebook and Twitter feeds to automatically promote your progress to your social media network, gain encouragement from your friends and make fundraising easy.

We are proud to announce that a portion of all proceeds will be allocated to fund on-the-ground, innovative grassroots awareness activities through a mini-grant partnership with NAMI State Organizations.  And as an added bonus, NAMI will feature the top 5 fundraisers in the NAMI Advocate magazine and/or NAMINow, our monthly digital publication.

So what are you waiting for!?  Please join us or donate to Miles for Mental Health today! Have questions or need more information on NAMI, Geared for Good, or the Miles for Mental Health Campaign? Email us at


Friday, May 9, 2014

Mental Illness Is No Kentucky Derby

By Dawn Brown, NAMI HelpLine Content and Development Specialist

The Kentucky Derby is called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” It’s attended and watched by over one hundred thousand people each year, and even if you weren’t watching this past Saturday when it was run, you probably know at least a few facts about the derby. You almost certainly know it’s a horse race and that there’s a starting line and a finish line. You’d know that the race is run on a track. Everyone likely knows that the fastest horse and jockey crossing the finish line is the winner, and that there’s a fair amount of betting on who will be the winner.

That’s about all I know about the Kentucky Derby, but I do know a lot about mental illness and it’s no Kentucky Derby. There is, however, a starting line. Sometimes the start is hard and fast when psychosis hits. Sometimes it starts like a slow moving fog that fills the brain. But, when mental illness starts everything changes and you’re left running for your life.

Unlike the derby’s racetrack at Churchill Downs, our track is never flat or level. The race cannot be run fast. There is no fast way to recover. It is a slow grind on an uneven ups and downs track with curves and blind spots. There are often multiple hospitalizations. Some people have periods of homelessness or are wrongfully jailed. Some of us lose friends to violence or suicide. Any one of these common catastrophes could derail a person’s life.

Unlike the horses in the derby, no one would bet money on someone affected by mental illness winning anything. Most people think recovery is a long shot. There is no finish line with the cheering fans, flashbulbs or a big check, and since there is no cure for mental illness, we must always be working on recovery.

Still every day, people living with mental illness and those that love them are winning. There is resilience. There is purpose and a future because we’re not in it alone. It takes love and support from people like friends and family. It takes commitment from mental healthcare providers, non-profit and faith-based organizations. It takes support and resources from community mental health centers, supported housing, employment opportunities and politicians.

These things make us winners. Our wins and successful recoveries have a ripple effect which reaches far beyond our individual lives. Families are made whole. Communities benefit from another engaged person. Wellness wins. My son is a winner, so I’m a winner.

NAMI has an important role to play in recovery. NAMI is people, like you and me, willing to use our experience with mental illness to make a difference. Become involved with NAMI in your community through your NAMI Affiliate and NAMI State Organization. Locate yours at Find Your Local NAMI. Advocate for people affected by mental illness by becoming involved with NAMI Advocacy. Participate in NAMI education and support programs. NAMI provides opportunities and training so that we can come along beside people with encouragement and engage them in ways that transform lives. You can be part of the NAMI movement by becoming a member and NAMI leader yourself.

No, recovery’s not a horse race. You don’t win it alone, but when you join the efforts of thousands of others moving towards wellness you always win.