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NAMI Advocate e-newsletter, January 2006

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Happy New Year!

In this issue of the NAMI Advocate e-newsletter, in light of the recent tragedy in Miami, we take a look at air travel and mental illness. We also cover recent studies on the effectiveness of medications, a provocative new book, an innovative approach to cultural outreach, and much more.

February is Black History Month

Each February, America celebrates Black History Month by honoring the many important contributions made by African Americans to our country. During this month and throughout the year, NAMI focuses attention on the many disparities that African Americans have historically faced and still face today in receiving mental health care. As the Surgeon General’s 2001 Report on Culture, Race, and Ethnicity documents, although the rate of mental illness in African American communities is similar to that of the general population, African Americans face barriers to receiving treatment.

According to the report, African Americans are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness. African Americans are often at a socioeconomic disadvantage in terms of accessing mental health care – nearly 25 percent of African Americans are uninsured. In addition, cultural bias against mental health professionals due to prior experiences with historical misdiagnosis, inadequate treatment, and a lack of understanding, prevents many from accessing care. Only two percent of psychiatrists, two percent of psychologists, and four percent of social workers in the United States are African American. African Americans tend to rely on family, religious, and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to mental health care professionals.

In addition, African Americans are disproportionately likely to experience social circumstances that will increase their likelihood of developing a mental illness. African Americans comprise 40 percent of the homeless population, nearly half of all prisoners in the United States, and 45 percent of children in the public foster care population. People who are homeless, prison inmates, and children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illness. Exposure to violence also increases the risk of developing a mental illness; over 25 percent of African American children exposed to violence meet criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The NAMI Multicultural Action Center works to focus attention on mental health system reform to ensure access to culturally competent services and treatment for all Americans and to help and support families of color who are dealing with mental illness. For more information about the unique issues African Americans with mental illness face, please visit to find fact sheets, African American Outreach Resource manuals, and more.

Crisis in the Sky: Mental Health and Air Travel

Mental Illness & Air Travel

Following the shooting death of Rigoberto Alizar in Miami by air marshals during a psychiatric crisis, NAMI consumers and family members have discussed potential precautions to take during travel. In the following article, NAMI Indiana's Steve Coburn shares his son's experience on an airplane in 2001.

On Monday October 8, 2001, less than a month after 9/11, our son Ted, on a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, stormed the cockpit of the airplane, believing that terrorists were going to crash the plane into the Sears Tower.

He was lucky. He is alive.

New Studies on the Effectiveness of Medications

New Drug StudiesIn a world of rising health care costs, the cost of medications account for a disproportionate share of the increase. This year alone, the cost of antipsychotic drugs is expected to increase to over $10 billion - 80 percent of which is paid by the public sector.

As a nation, we save money when people take their prescribed antipsychotic medication. Two ongoing studies are now trying to gauge the relative effectiveness of medications used to treat schizophrenia and depression. Read more...

New! Ask the Pharmacist

Ask the Pharmacist

NAMI is pleased to be working with the College of Psychiatric and Neurological Pharmacists to offer a new section on the NAMI Web site where Psychiatric Pharmacists write and answer questions that they experience in the course of their work with individuals with mental illness.

I forgot to get new prescriptions the last time I went to my doctor and I am out of refills on my old prescriptions. Now it's Saturday and I can't reach my doctor's office to have them call in new prescriptions for me. What should I do? Read more...

NAMI Book Shelf

This Issue:
A Mind Apart

A Mind Apart

Winston Churchill had a mental illness – as did William Blake, Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Georgia O'Keefe, Sylvia Plath, and many other creative, inventive people throughout our history. A new book argues that without such neurodiverse people, our world would be a less vibrant place and that the human species would find it more difficult to survive and adapt.

A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World by Susanne Antonetta examines how neuroatypicals – people with disassociative disorder, autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other neurological disorders – see the world and how the world sees them. Read more...

Bollywood as Therapy


A unique approach to cultural outreach is taking place in New Jersey. A psychiatrist, Dr. Jagdish Dang, is using old Bollywood movies to get South Asian senior citizens to speak about mental illness.

"Bollywood" is the informal name given to the Hindi-language film industry based in Bombay, India.

Conducted for South Asian Mental Health Awareness, a program of NAMI New Jersey, Dr. Dang's lectures cover mental illness without mentioning mental illness. Rather, Dang plays old songs from Bollywood movies and asks his audience about the emotions that arise from listening to the song.

One song in particular, "Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega Woh Gaana Gayega," which means "The heart that will love will sing", elicits the greatest discussion. The song is from a movie about a woman who is torn between two men: one man who alternates between highs and lows, and another man who is severely depressed. From this movie plot, Dang brings mental health issues out of the dark.


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