Archives for Advocacy - Page 2
I just watched President Obama's "Shameful Day for Washington" speech, and I take issue with the fact that he included people with severe mental illness in a group he described as "dangerous individuals." Here's what he said: "By now it's well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun. We're talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness."
"We have no national database of these lunatics... We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that has these monsters walking the streets." — Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President NRA Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut there have been pages and pages written and hours of audio and video created by people from all sides of the gun control/gun safety discussion. The conversation about the need for better mental health awareness and care, especially for children, is welcome. Comments like Mr. LaPierre's are not.
Yesterday, I served on a panel of family members who have loved ones with mental illness, where we talked to a room full of police officers (approximately 30 of them) as part of their crisis intervention team (CIT) training. NAMI-WCI (West Central Indiana) provided the training. As I prepared my story for the presentation, I realized that I am never the one who calls 911 when my wife is experiencing a manic episode. My wife has always been the one to call, usually because she is experiencing paranoia and psychosis and feels the need to call the police for protection. This made me wonder... why?
The Fall edition of the NAMI Advocate (2012) contains an interesting article by NAMI Communications Coordinator Brendan McLean entitled "The Hope for Mental Illness Research: Dr. Tom Insel Shares the Latest Data at NAMI Convention." But it wasn't the discussion about research that piqued my interest. Instead, it was what Dr. Insel said about stigma and the importance of engaging the family in the recovery process.
Stigma Versus Discrimination
In the mental health community, we often find ourselves wringing our hands when our loved ones fall victim to a flawed system. Too often, I hear of stories from family members who do everything right and have everything turn out all wrong. They take their loved one to the emergency room in a psychiatric crisis, and three hours later, the patient calms down and is released with no follow-up care in place. They contact their Community Mental Health Center only to be told that they need to contact an attorney, instead. They call around to psychiatric facilities and find out that no beds are available. They call 911, and the police show up, arrest their loved one and file criminal charges.
We just started a NAMI support group in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Since the town is small (population about 15,000), we decided to start with a combination group, consisting of both consumers (people who have a diagnosis) and family members. We hope eventually to get enough people involved to split into two groups — one exclusively for consumers and the other for family members and friends. Having both perspectives in a single group has its advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I feel that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.
Last Thursday, my wife and I attended a viewing of Dr. Delaney Ruston's documentary film Unlisted followed by a panel discussion. The film and panel discussion focused primarily on schizophrenia, but individuals with bipolar disorder and their families face similar struggles. I was very impressed by the keynote speaker, Dr. Alan Breier, MD, who passionately and compassionately described the struggles of people living with schizophrenia. He called schizophrenia the "quintessential human experience," because it affects the two qualities most responsible for making a person feel human: The ability to work The ability to love
Check out this interesting interview with Richard Dreyfuss about living with bipolar disorder. Dreyfuss also talks about self-medicating.
Today's headlines are packed with reports of a Jet Blue pilot who "flipped out" and went "berserk." If he had had a heart attack during the flight, I'm sure he would have gotten some sympathy. Instead, reporters are talking about charges that may be filed against the pilot.