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NAMI Advocate e-newsletter, September 2005

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Dear Friend of NAMI,

For the past month, all eyes have been on the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina has affected hundreds of thousands of people, some with mental illnesses. NAMI has established a dedicated fund, the NAMI Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, to help those in the affected region with mental illnesses. In this issue of the NAMI Advocate e-newsletter, we spotlight Hurricane Katrina's immediate impact on Mississippi; and upcoming events such as Mental Illness Awareness Week, and much more.

Mental Illness
Awareness Week

October 2 – 8, 2005, is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), an annual, national observance that was created by a Presidential proclamation in 1990 to focus attention on the high incidence of mental illness in America.

Over the past 16 years, MIAW has become a tradition in the NAMI grassroots. It presents an opportunity for the NAMI family to work together in communities across the country in a variety of outreach, educational, and advocacy efforts.

During MIAW, millions of Americans will honor the challenges faced by those living with mental illnesses and celebrate the recoveries their loved ones have achieved. This year’s theme, "Leveling the Playing Field," reflects the hope and real possibility of reclaimed lives for people with mental illnesses in communities across the country.

Recovery is a real possibility, largely due to improved science, better community support, and reduced stigma. But barriers remain that often delay or negatively influence recovery. Services are at risk; there is minimal insurance available for those who work; and stigma, although less today than when MIAW was founded, is still prevalent.

October 6, 2005 marks Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day (BDAD), an important component of Mental Illness Awareness Week. BDAD provides NAMI affiliates with an opportunity to reach out to persons living with bipolar disorder in their communities, their family members, and their friends. Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day also represents a great opportunity to help shape public commitment to early intervention and screening for bipolar disorder and access to effective treatment.

In conjunction with Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day, NAMI is conducting an online survey to gauge public understanding of bipolar disorder. The survey is brief and responses are anonymous. To participate in the survey, click here.

During MIAW and BDAD, NAMI affiliates work to increase media coverage, educate policymakers, build community support, and increase membership. Throughout the week, communities host grassroots educational events, mental health screenings for depression and bipolar disorder, and community activities intended to eradicate stigma and dispel the myths surrounding mental illness.

To find out about MIAW/BDAD activities in your community, contact your NAMI state organization by visiting our Web site at

Reflections on Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

Teri Brister, NAMI regional leadership consultant, shares her thoughts on living through Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

When asked to write a Mississippian’s perspective on living through the Katrina disaster, I willingly said, “Sure, no problem.” When the time came to actually put the experience into words, however, it was much more difficult than expected. The reason for the difficulty likely has a lot to do with denial.

Living in a state that borders the Gulf Coast means that hurricanes are a fact of life. They come, they leave various degrees of damage, and they are gone. Not so with Katrina. It just won’t go away.

There are homes, schools, hospitals, mental health centers, physicians' offices, and multiple businesses that are gone – not damaged, but gone The two mental health centers that cover the coastal counties both sustained massive damage; staff lost homes, cars, and belongings.  Some lost family members.  Yet the majority of these providers, as well as other health care practitioners and law enforcement officials, were out providing services within the first few days of the storm.  Services were provided in shelters, on the street, in parking lots, and in the shells of buildings. Read more...

NAMI Book Shelf
This Issue:
Lincoln's Melancholy

Lincoln's Melancholy

Abraham Lincoln lived with mental illness.

It ran in his family. He experienced two major depressive episodes. His friends put him on suicide watches. He also liked popcorn, oysters, and a strong cup of coffee.

Just in time for Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 2-8), Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk is appearing in bookstores. It is more than a "stigmabusting" profile from which to draw inspiration. It is also a gripping, carefully documented narrative and scholarly social history that will alter how Americans view the formative years of our 16th president -- going well beyond tales of log cabins and splitting rails that children learn about in elementary school. Read more…

NAMI Advocates to Visit Capitol Hill in June


NAMI is calling on advocates to join us for our 2006 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., next June. We are planning a major lobbying push to spur action on the recommendations contained in the final report of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. Although the report – which echoed much of what NAMI has been saying for years – supplied concrete goals to transform our nation’s mental health care system and laid out specific strategies to achieve these goals, not enough has been accomplished in the two and a half years since its release. Join us next June 28 – July 2 in Washington, D.C., when NAMI unleashes thousands of grassroots activists to meet with Congressional representatives to demand action now! Read more...

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month Hispanic Heritage Month began on September 15, the one hundred and eight-fourth anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

According to the latest Census information, one in eight people in the United States is of Latino origin. By 2050, the number of Latinos living in the U.S. is predicted to increase to 97 million, constituting nearly one-fourth of the population.

Unfortunately, as many studies document, Latinos face formidable barriers to receiving much-needed mental health treatment, and often times receive inadequate care.  The need for culturally competent treatment for the Latino community is not being appropriately addressed. As a result, thousands of Latinos with mental illness and their families have to struggle against an often biased and insensitive system. Read more...


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