Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
- NAMI of Greater Toledo is sharing information about mental health and NAMI programs at a local minority health fair – and they’re doing it in style by bringing the NAMI Ohio mobile mental health bus!
- NAMI Prince George’s County held a mental health forum at a local church that focused on mental illness and stigma in the African American community. Participants shared what it was like to experience mental illness and audience members were allowed to engage in productive discussion about the specific mental health challenges faced by minorities.
- NAMI Cumberland Harnett and Lee Counties is hosting a discussion of the book, The Secret She Kept by Rhonda Tate Billingsley, which focuses on mental illness in African American family.
- NAMI Wisconsin has held a series of culturally diverse music events in local parks and public spaces. They’ve worked to share information about mental illness and distribute NAMI materials at each concert.
- NAMI Santa Clara County has planned a “Food Fun Dance Education Day” that features Asian and Latino dance and food presentations along with wellness instruction.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
By Ken Duckworth, M.D., NAMI Medical Director
There is a growing recognition in both the U.S. and Europe that a fundamental understanding of how the brain works is an urgent priority. This flows from the awareness that the public health burden of brain-based conditions is staggering, and that for the first time we have some truly promising tools to help us get there. This substantial scientific effort will take patience but it also holds much promise.
The approaches on either side of the Atlantic are quite different. Given how much of what we know from drug discovery is rooted in good observation and chance, it is hard to predict what approach will yield the best results.
In the U.S. President Obama announced the BRAIN Initiative, which will “seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits, and understand how their interplay creates our unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities.”
In Europe the European Union’s Human Brain Project (HBP) seeks to model the human brain on supercomputers. Recently some scientists have formally criticized the EU approach, calling it premature. Regardless, both investments represent nearly simultaneous multiyear commitments to better understandings of the neuroscience we need so badly to advance care.
Understanding the brain better does not mean mental conditions are only about genes or biology. An important principle is that environment impacts genes and gene expression—this concept is called epigenetics. Environment could mean protective elements like love and holding or risks like viruses at certain stages of neurodevelopment or traumatic experiences. It’s important to think both and not either-or when thinking of psychiatric conditions and the brain and environment.
We have a greet deal to learn but have already come upon some important findings. We do know that the brain is more plastic—able to adapt and be shaped—than was first thought. Imaging the brain (fMRI, PET scans) have helped us move forward in basic functional understanding, but isn’t a clinically useful tool at this time.
On the basic science side, two major recent breakthroughs stand out. First, the ability to generate stem cells from adult skin holds great promise. In 2014, scientists have looked at nerve cell responses taken from stem cells from individuals with bipolar disorder to learn how they function differently than from people without bipolar disorder. Another recent basic science breakthrough is optogenetics, which is the ability to impact specific cells through light and modified proteins. These are not yet clinically useful, but will teach us a great deal about the human brain. That knowledge will lead to better interventions.
One of the challenges I have as NAMI’s Medical Director is cautioning patience even as I am so hopeful that novel scientific avenues will bear fruit. It is hard to know when and what new treatments and interventions can come from a more thorough understanding of the human brain. People want and deserve better treatments now, as there is a great deal of unmet need in the areas of brain disorders. Both a commitment to science to learn more and getting people what we already know works are essential.
Monday, July 14, 2014
By Dania Douglas, NAMI State Advocacy Manager
“My mental condition was horribly debilitating for many years. I had no reason to get out of bed in the morning….I had no direction and no purpose. Now, when my feet hit the floor, I get to go to work every day and practice my passion.” – Stephanie Joseph, CPA, Office Administrator NAMI, Montgomery County.
Ask 100 different people what work means to them, and you are likely to get 100 different responses. It can simply mean a source of income; it can provide a purpose; it can create order in life; it can be an opportunity for creativity and building something new; it can be a chance to help others.
People with mental illness work successfully in a range of professions: at artists, scientists, famers, engineers, lawyers, construction, workers, chefs. Look anywhere and you will find people with mental illness leading and innovating.
Yet, the reality in America is that many people with mental illness are either unemployed or underemployed. Bouts of illness, difficulty concentrating, trouble communicating with co-workers, medical appointments and absences from work can make getting and keeping a job difficult. Stigma and discrimination can also be great barriers to overcome.
NAMI just released a report, Road to Recovery: Employment and Mental Illness, which explores the current state of mental illness and employment in the United States. It examines the reasons for low unemployment rates among people with mental health conditions, and describes the most effective supported employment programs that have been developed to date. The report is also a call to action for policymakers and advocates. It includes policy recommendations and model legislation that leaders could use to make supported employment programs available to the people who need them.
Almost 80 percent of the nearly 7 million individuals served by the public mental health system in this country are unemployed. About 60 to 70 percent of these same people want to work and would work if they had appropriate support. The current employment support systems we have in place are simply not effective for most people with mental health conditions. It is time for a change.
The good news is that there are employment programs that have been studied, tested, and shown to help people with mental illness choose, get and keep a job.
Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment is a system that focuses on rapid placement in competitive employment and in jobs that match an individual’s talents and interests. IPS has a strong evidence-base shown to significantly improve the opportunities for people with mental illness to find and keep employment.
Clubhouses are community centers open to anyone with a mental illness. Clubhouses offer a variety of employment services including transitional employment and independent employment programs. Both have been proven through research to help improve opportunities to find and keep employment.
Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is a team-based system that provides intensive support services to people with serious mental illness in the community whenever and wherever they are needed 24/7. Every ACT team should include a vocational specialist. ACT has a proven track record of helping people find and keep employment.
When we invest in programs that work, we invest in real lives, in real people, in real success and real recovery.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
By Corrine Ruth, NAMI Policy Intern
In 2008, Congress declared July as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (NMMHAM) in honor of author and advocate, Bebe Moore Campbell. Her close experience with a family member living with a severe mental health condition compelled Campbell to write multiple books on the topics of mental illness, treatment and recovery within a family setting. But she did not stop there.
Campbell fervently believed that the national dialogue surrounding mental illness should acknowledge diverse communities. She became a prominent advocate for mental health education and support for minority populations. NMMHAM is inspired by Campbell’s efforts to include people of all communities and backgrounds in the national conversation on mental illness and increase awareness of mental health issues that, without distinction, affect us all.
Minority Mental Health Is Not a Minor Issue
As Campbell emphasized, mental illness is associated with unique concerns for minority groups. Research shows that stigma towards mental illness is especially high in minority communities, making it more difficult for individuals to talk about their concerns with family members and peers and discouraging them from seeking treatment. In Campbell’s own words, “People of color…feel the stigma more keenly. In a race-conscious society, some don't want to be perceived as having yet another deficit”. People from culturally diverse groups often face additional barriers to mental health care such as financial cost, accessibility of treatment and language difficulties.
Every person dealing with a mental health problem should have access to quality care. Every community should be aware of the importance of mental health, the sings of mental health conditions and where to find the support they need. This is why NMMHAM is an exceptional opportunity to spread the word about these issues, raise awareness and mobilize communities.
During the month of July, to celebrate NMMHAM and honor Campbell’s legacy, NAMI State Organizations and Affiliates across the nation will be focusing on how we can better address the mental health needs of people from culturally diverse groups and increase awareness of minority mental health issues locally.
The celebration kicked off on June 26 with an exciting legislative event organized by NAMI California at the State Capitol building in Sacramento. Together with Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, NAMI California leaders presented a resolution proclaiming July as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month state-wide. At the event, a variety of speakers testified to the importance of recognizing minority mental health, including Senator Jim Beall, who recently led efforts to enforce mental health parity in the state budget, and individuals from diverse backgrounds who shared their experiences dealing with mental illness.
Many additional exciting and creative events are planned for this month ranging from art shows and music festivals to educational presentations and forum discussions. We encourage you to join us in celebrating mental health awareness and diversity!
Here are some suggestions for things that you can do to spread the word about the importance of minority mental health:
- Share your unique story about how you or someone you love has been affected by mental illness to let others know that they are not alone. We’ve put together some tips about including information about your community when sharing your story for NMMHAM.
- Participate in our July 10 NMMHAM Celebration webinar on bridging the gaps in access to culturally competent mental health care and support for minority communities.
- Share information about NMMHAM on your social media profile. “Like” the NMMHAM page on Facebook and use the hashtag #MinorityMentalHealth to join the conversation on Twitter.
- Visit www.nami.org/nmmham for more resources and ideas on how to get involved.
Mental illness affects people of all cultures, identities and backgrounds. Let’s promote awareness and encourage understanding this July. Let’s make a difference.