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NAMI Advocate e-newsletter, November 2005

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Dear Friend of NAMI,

The holiday season is fast approaching and so, in this issue of the NAMI Advocate e-newsletter, we examine the myth that the holidays trigger increases in depression and suicide. We also spotlight the best books, movies, and television of 2005 as well a new documentary set to broadcast on local ABC-TV stations starting in December.

Holiday Myth:
Depression & Suicide

Despite traditional media stories of an increase in suicides during the holiday season each year, research shows that there is actually a decrease in suicides during the months of December and January.

According to a study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, this false perception was perpetuated by at least two thirds of the news stories for the end-of-year holiday period in 1999-2000. Dr. Daniel Romer led the study to show that the implication by the media that suicide rates increase during the holiday season is incorrect.

Research into suicide patterns began as early as the end of the nineteenth century. Back in the late 1800s, Enrico Morselli studied suicide in Europe and found that 17 out of 18 countries showed an increase in suicide rates during the spring and summer months. More recently, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of
Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide
(1999), found a similar pattern in a 1995 study. July has the highest rate, followed by August. December and January typically have two of the lowest rates of suicide during the year.

However, there is still concern for certain mental health disorders during the winter months. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder in which a lack of sunlight can lead to depression, which is especially a problem during the long winter months. Some symptoms are lack of energy, a decrease in productivity, the need for unusual amounts of sleep, feelings of depression, and an increase in appetite. If you think you or someone you know suffers from SAD, consult a doctor. Some treatments effective in combating SAD are a balanced diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables, and consistent exercise, especially outside in the morning hours when the sun is at its strongest.

Many depressive episodes begin in winter, but reach the point of maximum risk in the early spring, when mood seems to be improving and energy returns, including energy to act on lingering suicidal thoughts. But watching out -- and reaching out -- to family and friends during the holidays is still important.

To find out more about Seasonal Affective Disorder, visit the NAMI Web site.

Best Books, Movies, and Television of 2005

Best of 2005

The end of the year typically signals the announcement of many annual "best" and "worst" lists. So in that spirit, we have compiled a list of some of the best books, movies, and television of the past year.

From a novel to a historical biography, from a reference guide to an Emmy-winning television comedy, 2005 provided an array of positive portrayals of the issues related to mental illness. Here's hoping that 2006 provides even more. Read more...

Suicide Prevention: Reaching Out

New NAMI Guides Focus on Suicide-Attempt Survivors

Suicide PreventionNAMI has published a special set of guides to help people who attempt suicide and come into contact with hospital emergency rooms.

Each set consists of three brochures in English and two in Spanish. The brochures seek to educate the key participants in the crisis: medical professionals, family members, and patients themselves, in order to reduce the risk of further attempts. The guide for medical professionals has already been distributed to over 400 hospital emergency departments around the country. Read more...

NAMI Leaders Speak Out on Stigma, Faith and Recovery

Shadow Voices

Along with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, several NAMI family and consumer leaders are featured in a new documentary about mental illness and the hope for recovery. 

From December 4, 2005, through February 4, 2006, local ABC-TV stations will be showing -- at their discretion -- Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness, a one-hour documentary produced by Mennonite Media and the National Council of Churches.

The program is billed as "an intimate, inside look at what it is like to live with a mental illness and how individuals and their families find their way through a tangle of mental, medical, governmental, societal, and spiritual issues." Read more...

Hurricane Katrina: Three Months Later

Hurricane Katrina

Less than three months after the first of two devastating hurricanes hit the state of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast on August 29, people living with mental illness in Louisiana and NAMI advocates still face a bleak reality.

NAMI’s initial response to the hurricanes included coordinating with advocates across all levels—national, state, and local—to help identify and locate individuals, make information and resources available, identify shelter options, and ensure basic treatment access. NAMI’s Hurricane Katrina Relief Initiative integrated grassroots efforts and supported NAMI advocates by filtering information, identifying resources, and advocating for the mobilization of efforts to meet the basic needs of people living with mental illness in Louisiana and Mississippi. Read more...

NAMIWalks for the Mind of America - 2005 Update


NAMI’s signature fund- and awareness-raising walkathon program, NAMIWalks for the Mind of America, continued to grow at a dramatic rate this year. Approximately 50,000 people came to the events nationwide, and it is estimated that by the time the last dollar is counted, the program will have raised $4.4 to $4.5 million dollars for NAMI state and affiliate organizations across the country.

Forty-nine walks were held in 2005. NAMIWalks even went global in 2005.  There was a NAMIWalk in Mumbai, India in October sponsored by NAMI India and held in conjunction with World Mental Health Week. Read more...

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