NAMI North Carolina’s executive director, Jack Register, and interim chair of the NAMI NC Consumer Council, Lucy Wilmer, were featured in this article by reporter Billy Ball in the Indy Week’s August 26, 2015 edition.
“This is how Lucy Wilmer wants to remember Bill: the tousled brown hair, the wry grin, the sense that, before he even finishes this joke, he has two more waiting.
“People tell me the world’s worse off because Bill is gone,” Wilmer says. “It sounds like a platitude, but it isn’t. He was just super funny and outgoing, one of the friendliest, quirkiest, most interesting human beings.”
Bill, her 38-year-old boyfriend, killed himself in 2008 in Beaufort County, four years after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Like many with that condition, Bill suffered crippling mood swings.
“When he was in a manic state, he didn’t feel the need to take any medicine,” Wilmer says. “He was going to start 17 businesses. But when the depression started, it was very difficult to get him to do anything, to take his medicine, to go to his doctor’s appointments.”
It was a struggle until the day he killed himself. But earlier treatment may have made the difference, says Wilmer, now the chairwoman of the consumer council for the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an advisory panel of volunteers who have experienced the ramifications of mental illness. And North Carolina’s reformed public mental health system, which is a little more than a decade old, can offer the kind of creative outreach needed for people like Bill, many of whom begin to show symptoms in their 20s.
That’s why the architects of the state’s push for regional, public mental health authorities say North Carolina’s experiment, which has come under legislative attack, must be preserved. The system, designed to simplify, economize and improve the state’s confusing network of providers, relies on nine regional groups called local management entities, or LMEs, “one-stop shops” charged with dispensing Medicaid dollars for mental health treatment.”
Click here to read the full article.
Lawmakers in Raleigh are trying to come to a decision about the state budget. The House and Senate could not be further apart about how to support our publically funded mental health system. Right now, the divide over the budget is so great that we are in the second continuing resolution. Part of the wedge in these discussions is the fate of Medicaid.
Numerous perspectives and possible plans have been put forward as to what will happen. While the negotiations continue in the halls of the legislature, the public system for mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services (MHIDDSAS) system of local management entities/managed care organizations (LME-MCO) continues to function.
The system was designed to provide high quality care at a predictable cost. While the LME-MCO system has achieved budget predictability and is not responsible for the Medicaid cost overruns you have read about in the media, the LME-MCO system is just beginning to tap into new, innovative services that will improve care and outcomes for people living with mental illness.
When lawmakers created the LME-MCO system, the intent was that all “savings” accrued by the LME-MCO system were to be invested into creating and broadening innovative services. The Senate budget proposes cutting state funding to the LME-MCO system by millions, forcing the system to use their current fund balances to fund the status quo, instead of creating new services.
More worrisome, these innovative services could have given hope to those who haven’t found recovery and are cycling in and out of our emergency rooms. Legislators are looking for a solution to the ever growing problem of people with serious mental illness presenting at local emergency departments. The LME-MCO system may have the answer to this problem, but we will never know if the Senate budget passes.
The family of Michael Anthony Kerr may have won a settlement to the tune of 2.5 million dollars from the Department of Public Safety (DPS), but they lost far more than they gained. NAMI NC remains outraged by the death and treatment of Mr. Kerr, who remained in segregation for more than a month prior to his death. It is not effective to use solitary confinement with people experiencing mental illness. Suicides occur more often, symptoms become more pronounced, and decompensation requiring crisis care to hospitalization. Plus, there are numerous reports that prison personnel believed Mr. Kerr was malingering his symptoms. Imagine being told you were faking your medical condition. What a truly devastating approach for Mr. Kerr and his family.
We are pleased with the dedication from the Department of Public Safety to make mental health care a priority. From Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for prison personnel to participation in the VERA grant program to find alternatives to solitary confinement, we remain hopeful that another situation like Mr. Kerr’s can be prevented. DPS has committed to expanding mental health treatment in the prison system. However, the Department of Public Safety needs the support of our lawmakers to fund these initiatives.
NAMI NC is excited to announce an advocacy training collaborative program for affiliates. This program is designed for those affiliates who are looking to take their advocacy skills and initiatives to the next level. This training will not only provide valuable skills to help be a better advocate for mental health issues, but it will also help with growing and sustaining a strong advocacy network within local affiliates and the community. Each affiliate will identify a team of 3 people to participate in the collaborative. The team will be responsible for advocacy efforts in their affiliate along with serving as the primary points of contact with the state office and their affiliate membership. Team members will have the opportunity to participate in special events hosted by NAMI NC, including the opportunity to be trained as a NAMI Smarts for Advocacy Instructor and exclusive advocacy day at the General Assembly.
Affiliates who would like to apply will fill out an application. Applications will be accepted until August 28, 2015. Click here to learn more about the Collaborative and how your affiliate can apply. Please contact Nicholle Karim at email@example.com for inquiries or to request an application.
All communities face unique challenges or barriers in addressing mental health issues. Taking on the challenges of mental health conditions, health coverage and the stigma of mental illness affects all of us. In many communities, however, these problems are increased by less access to care, cultural stigma and lower quality care.
In May of 2008, the US House of Representatives announce July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Albert Wynn [D-MD] and cosponsored by a large bipartisan group to achieve two goals:
- Improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of mental illness.
- Name a month as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities.
About Bebe Moore Campbell
Bebe Moore Campbell was an author, advocate, co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles and national spokesperson, who passed away in November 2006.
She received NAMI’s 2003 Outstanding Media Award for Literature. Campbell advocated for mental health education and support among individuals of diverse communities.
In 2005, inspired by Campbell’s charge to end stigma and provide mental health information, longtime friend Linda Wharton-Boyd suggested dedicating a month to the effort.
The duo got to work, outlining the concept of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and what it would entail. With the support of the D.C. Department of Mental Health and then-mayor Anthony Williams, they held a news conference in Southeast D.C., where they encouraged residents to get mental health checkups.
Support continued to build as Campbell and Wharton-Boyd held book signings, spoke in churches and created a National Minority Mental Health Taskforce of friends and allies. However, the effort came to a halt when Campbell became too ill to continue.
When Campbell lost her battle to cancer, Wharton-Boyd, friends, family and allied advocates reignited their cause, inspired by the passion of the life of an extraordinary woman.
The group researched and obtained the support of Representatives Albert Wynn [D-MD] and Diane Watson [D-CA], who co-signed legislation to create an official minority mental health awareness month.
Take the StigmaFree Pledge
Help NAMI replace stigma with hope. Learn more about how you can help by taking the pledge to bring understanding and education to others. Pledge to be Stigma Free here.
For more information about Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and how you can get involved, visit nami.org/nmmham.
It is with sadness that we announce the resignation of our Young Families Program Director, Jennifer Rothman. Jennifer has been with NAMI NC for 8 years and in her tenure has helped to build a foundation for our organization. From the work she has done raising awareness of the needs of children and families who are struggling with the lived experience of mental illness to her leadership in the State Collaborative for Children, Youth and Families.
Jennifer worked tirelessly to build relationships and to be a force for change in NC. We will miss Jen’s laughter and energy in the state office but know she is out there creating change and being the great advocate she is for all of our members. Thank you, deeply and profoundly, Jennifer for your commitment and years of service to NAMI NC. Best of luck to you and may the winds carry you far in your journey.
NAMI North Carolina is incredibly honored to have been recognized by Representative George Holding of U.S. House of Representatives (13th District–Wake Forest, Nashville, Willow Spring) during his speech on the House floor. He talked about Mental Health Awareness Month and the importance of mental health care during his house speech. Thank you, Rep Holding!
NAMI NC executive director Jack Register was interviewed on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Now program about the Mental Health Crisis in North Carolina. The three-part series examines some possible solutions to some of the common obstacles people with mental illnesses face on their road to recovery. View the segment here.
NAMI North Carolina was invited by the Department of Health and Human Services to participate in the ceremony of the initial signing over of the Dorthea Dix property to the City of Raleigh. Attendance included DHHS administration, Governor McCrory’s cabinet and the Governor, City of Raleigh staff and Mayor McFarlane, many other advocacy organizations, as well as other interested parties. This event was the second step in the process to officially deed the property over to the city. This event was one was a celebration and looking to the future as this property will serve as a destination park for the city. We, however, have and will continue to publically grieve this loss and we need the leaders of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Governor to know that this loss is one we do not take lightly.
To us, the land was a public commitment by both the state and federal government to ensure services for those living with mental illness were available. We are an organization of families, consumers, and advocates who struggle daily with the consequences of psychiatric disorders and diseases. We are the community who came to Dix in the past for care and to find hope. Many who are familiar with the work of NAMI NC know that the loss of the Dix property was quite devastating to our community.
Our ask is two-fold:
- First, we seek a public ceremony to honor the legacy of Dorthea Dix as well as the many lives that have been directly affected by mental illness in our state.
- Second, we seek assurance from both the state and the City of Raleigh that there will be protections for the cemetery as well a memorial erected on the property.
We acknowledge the guarantee made by the Governor and DHHS to honor the legacy of Dorothea Dix. NAMI NC’s commitment is to monitor and hold the Governor and DHHS to their publically stated commitment to ensure the proceeds will go to the Mental Health Trust Fund and that those funds will be used for mental health services.
PRESS RELEASE: NAMI North Carolina calls for reducing stigma about mental illness during Mental Health Awareness Month
RALEIGH, NC (May 6, 2015) – May is Mental Health Awareness Month and is an opportunity to learn both about mental health as part of overall health and the need to be alert to symptoms of mental illness. Unfortunately, stigma, access to care and other issues can be barriers to treatment.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness North Carolina (NAMI NC) wants everyone to know that one in five adults experience mental health problems every year, which can contribute to the onset of serious medical conditions such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
“During Mental Health Awareness Month, everyone should take the time to learn symptoms of mental illness and make changes to eliminate stigma,” said Jack Register, MSW, Executive Director of NAMI NC “Early identification and treatment makes a big difference in successful management of the illness and a quicker recovery.”
Stigma remains a barrier to care and it can make one’s mental health condition worse in the long run. Stigma reduces mental health consumers’ access to resources and opportunities and leads to low self-esteem, isolation and hopelessness.
Research shows that by ignoring the symptoms of mental health conditions, we lose ten years in which we could intervene in order to change people’s lives for the better. During most of these years most people still have supports that allow them to succeed—home, family, friends, school and work. Intervening effectively during early stages of mental illness can save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illnesses.
Each illness has its own set of symptoms but some common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Feeling excessively sad or low
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
- Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
- Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
- Changes in sex drive
- Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
- Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (“lack of insight” or anosognosia)
- Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
- Thinking about suicide
- Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
- An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance (mostly in adolescents)
“NAMI hopes everyone will take steps to recognize the signs of mental illness and pledge to be stigma free” said Register. “It is a time to end the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness that too often discourages people from getting help when they need it.”
NAMI’s StigmaFree campaign urges individuals, companies, organizations and campuses to create an American culture in which the stigma that is often associated with mental health conditions is ended and replaced by hope and support for recovery. To take the NAMI StigmaFree pledge, visit nami.org/stigmafree.
For more than 30 years, NAMI North Carolina has provided free support groups, education programs, and advocacy efforts throughout North Carolina. NAMI NC is the state’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to promoting recovery and optimizing the quality of life for those living with mental illness. Founded in 1984, NAMI NC has become North Carolina’s voice on mental illness, serving 30 local affiliates across North Carolina, who join together to meet the NAMI mission. For more information on programs, our advocacy efforts and the 30 affiliate organizations in North Carolina, visit our website at naminc.org.