National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), the nation's largest organization dedicated to improving life for people with severe mental illnesses, testifying today before President Bush's "New Freedom" Commission on Mental Health, called for reforms that achieve "cultural competence" in the nation's treatment system.
"Less than a third of people with mental illness seek treatment," said Maria Jose Carrasco, program manager for NAMI's Multicultural and International Outreach (MIO) Center. "Members of ethnic and racial minorities face additional barriers, including racial discrimination, poverty, language, and cultural prohibitions-making access to care an arduous, uphill battle."
The President's Commission has been meeting this week at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington. More information about the Commission is available at www.mentalhealthcommission.gov. Its preliminary report is due in October.
"Diversity is a strength," Carrasco also said, citing comments from NAMI's Latino Leadership Forum held in Cincinnati in June, in which the importance of "reciprocity" was emphasized as a cultural value: in which different communities learn from their differences to find different ways to address a common problem.
As part of its campaign for reciprocal education, the MIO Center recently launched a global partnership initiative with consumer and family organizations in Brazil, Japan, South Africa and Taiwan. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies major depression as the third leading cause of disability across the globe. In every racial or ethnic community, at home and abroad, mental illness is real. Treatment must start with the individual and recognize cultural differences.