In our NAMI support group and Family-to-Family Education Program, we use two interesting words that I never gave much thought to before: normative and normalize. As I was preparing to co-teach Class 1, these two words sounded like jargon to me. Why not just use the word normal instead? I wondered what these words meant, so I looked them up in my Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, and here’s what I found:
normalizeto make conform to or reduce to a norm or standardnormativeof, relating to, or determining norms or standardsI was not enlightened.
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?
I’m taking an informal poll on our Facebook Page about the usefulness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Please weigh in there or add your comments here about your experience with CBT and whether your found it worthwhile, a total waste of time, or something in between.
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.
If the human brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.
–Emerson M. Pugh as quoted by George E. Pugh, The Biological Origin of Human Values, 1977
The other day, I was looking through a very helpful publication entitled “What To Do in a Psychiatric Crisis in Indiana,” published by NAMI Indiana. I read it before and mentioned it in a previous post entitled “What To Do in a Psychiatric Crisis,” but what struck me this time was the discussion of calling 911. If you call 911 to report a psychiatric crisis, the dispatcher is most likely to send the police, and NAMI cautions:
It is important to note that depending on the police officer involved and other contingencies, s/he may take your loved one to jail instead of to the emergency room. Be clear about what you want to have happen.
That’s excellent advice, but wouldn’t it be better if you called 911 to report a psychiatric crisis, and instead of just the police an ambulance arrived, too? After all, bipolar disorder is an illness, and ambulances have medications that can calm a person down. Also, wouldn’t someone who’s experiencing a major mood episode be more inclined to voluntarily go away in an ambulance than in a squad car? Wouldn’t it be less stigmatizing?
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.
Last night my wife and I watched Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking – the HBO film version of her solo Broadway performance based on her book of the same title. In Wishful Drinking, Fisher recounts the emotional ups and downs of her childhood and career and her struggles with depression and mania, all in a very humorous way.
One thing that struck me, and I’ve noticed this in other situations, is that families are often pretty screwed up and sometimes it’s the most “normal” person in the family, the one who seems to really have it all together, takes the hit and ends up with the bipolar label. Then the family treats that person as the crazy one – the problem. I can’t claim that this is usually how it plays out, but I’ve observed it in a couple cases.