National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI Applauds White House Conference on Mental Health

"We’re ecstatic and exhilarated. People are being educated and empowered. But now, the hard work begins."

Twenty years ago this summer, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) was founded to advance research, education, advocacy and support on behalf of persons with severe mental illnesses. Today, NAMI applauded the President of the United States and Mrs. Tipper Gore, Mental Health Advisor to the President, for their leadership in convening the first White House Conference on Mental Health, and embracing NAMI’s language and agenda—including the President’s announcement on Saturday of an official, national.campaign against stigma, which to many NAMI members sounded much like NAMI’s own Campaign to End Discrimination.

"We are ecstatic and exhilarated," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn, who along with other NAMI leaders attended the conference. "Because of renewed focus on mental health issues, people throughout the country are being educated and empowered. Many individuals and families affected by mental illness will realize for the first time that they are not alone, and that there is hope for the future."

"But now, the hard work begins," Flynn said. "Americans will need to translate the vision of the conference into action. That includes Congress."

NAMI leaders attending the conference include Flynn, Bill Emmet (Rhode Island), Loretta Ferry (Pennsylvania) Edward Foulks (Louisiana), Michael Freedman (New York) Katrina Gay (Tennessee), Randolph Hack (Hawaii), Lois Hatton (South Dakota) Nancy Lee Head (DC), J. Rock Johnson (Nebraska), Molly Klocksin (Nebraska), and Diane Steele (Florida). Following the White Conference, NAMI will be glad to help arrange for media interviews with attendees about their specific impressions.


NAMI Media Efforts In Connection with White House Conference on Mental Health

The June 7, 1999 White House Conference on Mental Health has generated considerable media coverage of issues related to mental illness. NAMI has played a critical role in shaping this heightened visibility and has provided extensive support to reporters and broadcast journalists who have been covering this story. A summary of NAMI media efforts follows:

· ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings – to air on Monday, June 7, piece on White House Conference; arranged profile of NAMI board member Fred Frese and psychologist and author Kay Jamison.

· CBS Evening News with Dan Rather – to air on Monday, June 7, piece on White House Conference and mental health parity; arranged interview with NAMI staff member Peg Nichols and her husband Mirian on struggles to get insurance coverage for their son.

· News Hour With Jim Lehrer – to air on Monday, June 7, piece on insurance parity; arranged interviews with a consumer who has experienced discrimination; provided extensive background information; arranged on-line parity questions for Laurie Flynn.

· National Public Radio – piece on stigma and discrimination by Joanne Silberner aired Monday, June 7; arranged interviews with NAMI board member Fred Frese and psychiatrist Dr. Ken Duckworth; NAMI stigma study mentioned.

· Washington Post – June 7 article on White House conference included interview with Laurie Flynn and NAMI’s call for expanding parity to government contractors; May 26 piece on FEHBP initiative included Laurie Flynn quote of support.

· Fox News – White House correspondent Jan Smith interviewed NAMI Director of Public Policy Andrew Sperling and NAMI Manager of Public Information Peg Nichols for piece on conference and parity to air June 7.

· New York Times – columnist Joe Sharkey piece on mental illness spending published June 6 in Weekend Review; included NAMI information and quotes from NAMI Director of Communications Mary Rappaport.

· Time Magazine -- June 7 article on White House Conference mentioned NAMI; provided extensive background information and arranged interviews with several NAMI spokespersons; sent letter-to-editor in response.

· CNN – ran all day on Friday, June 4; piece on White House Conference and executive order on hiring people with psychiatric disorders; NAMI featured prominently as model employer; included interviews with NAMI staff member Lainie DeMelle and NAMI’s Director of Public Policy Andrew Sperling.

· CNN Radio – ran Friday, June 4; piece on executive order featured interview with NAMI’s Director of Legal Affairs Ron Honberg.

· NPR "Public Interest" – May 26, one-hour, live national program on reintegrating people with mental illness into the community; featured NAMI’s Director of Legal Affairs Ron Honberg.

· Wall Street Journal – May 29 front-page Washington Wire piece on FEHBP initiative featured NAMI’s position of support for severe mental illnesses.

· Chicago Tribune – piece on children and mental illness will run week of June 7; provided extensive background information and interviews with family members, include the Frese family.

· CNN – will June 7 and June 8, in conjunction with the White House Conference, about the mental health system and CIT program in Memphis; Ron Honberg worked extensively with CNN producer in putting the show together and in helping her coordinate with the key players in Memphis; Tipper Gore also to be featured in the piece.

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With more than 208,000 members, NAMI is the nation’s leading grassroots advocacy organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and severe anxiety disorders. NAMI’s efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for nondiscriminatory and equitable federal, state, and private-sector policies; research into the causes, symptoms and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma surrounding severe mental illness. NAMI has more than 1,200 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Canada.