National Alliance on Mental Illness
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What Is Hearts & Minds?

The NAMI Hearts & Minds program is an online, interactive, educational initiative promoting the idea of wellness in both mind and body. Wellness is an ongoing process of learning how to make choices that support a more successful, healthy life.

Engaging in a wellness effort can make a huge difference in the quality of your life. One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that taking the wellness approach can result in a 17 percent decline in total medical visits and a 35 percent decline in medical visits for minor illnesses.

Wellness is about the individual; you can decide what parts of your life you would like to change and you can determine your own success.

Increased Heart Disease Risk for People with Mental Illness

People living with mental illness are often at higher risk for heart disease and much of that risk is preventable.

People living with mental illness are more likely to have classic heart-risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, obesity, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure), some of which can be compounded by some antipsychotic medications.

Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes

America is having an epidemic of diabetes according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Unfortunately, the risk is greater for people living with mental illness, especially those taking second-generation atypical antipsychotic medications (SGAs). Another issue to be aware of is metabolic syndrome, a condition that can be a precursor to diabetes.

FAQ About Wellness and Mental Illness

The more you know, the more you can increase your odds of living a long and full life. Knowledge is power and even small changes in your choices can help improve your life. Have questions or concerns?

Take a look at frequently asked questions answered by NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth, M.D.


If you need more information on any of the wellness topics here at the Hearts & Minds Web site or have any questions, please send an e-mail to


join the discussion
Ray Lacey

Meet Ray

I have been smoke-free for more than a year now, but for 50 years I was a pack-a-day smoker. I spent nearly five years trying substitutes and medicines -- the nicotine gum, a nasal spray from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Chantix, the patch -- you name it. Some made me sick to my stomach and the patch wouldn't stay stuck to my skin.

I quit cold turkey three times, but it never lasted. At one point, I was hospitalized for an operation and I set a goal of going two days without a cigarette at all. I failed. When I got home I wanted to prove to myself I could stop. I realized if a cigarette was getting in the way of daily life I could just put it out, so I kept it to two puffs; however I only inhaled the first puff.

I said to myself, "That's not smoking! You don't smoke!" and that was it. Now I can taste food better and climb stairs better, and I enjoy taking deeper breaths wherever I go. I hope no one else needs surgery to finally quit smoking; when I think back, I'm just grateful that I've stopped.

Ray Lacey
Lives with Schizophrenia
NAMI HelpLine