From the filmmaker: I’m Meghan Parkansky, and I’m currently producing a documentary film about mental illness and the mental healthcare system in America. Documentary filmmaking has become a very powerful tool that can spark social movements and spearhead change. Take the recent films Blackfish and Bully, for example. Both films began national conversations that changed the way we looked at sea animal captivity and bullying. As a mental health advocate and documentary filmmaker, this is what I would like to accomplish for the cause of mental health.

If we can raise the funds to produce this film, Cynthia Lowen, the Co-Producer of the previously mentioned Bully documentary, has agreed to come on board to work on casting, post production collaboration, and outreach. This would be huge.

I have included a “perk” in my campaign that I think would bring great exposure to the NAMI Walks – As it reads on my fundraiser website:

NAMI Walks are the most successful mental health awareness events in the U.S. Members of our crew will participate in any U.S.-based NAMI walk event of your choosing. We will walk in honor of anyone you choose, film our experience, and include it in the special features on the DVD.

I’m reaching out to the NAMI organizations to ask for help spreading the word about our fundraiser with a mention in social media or their newsletter.

There is more detailed information about the project on our fundraising webpage:

Gains in Health and Education Despite Economic Challenges

Although North Carolina children have made significant long-term gains in health and education, troubling setbacks in family economic security threaten to undermine their overall well-being, according to the latest KIDS COUNT Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (Follow this link to view the full Data Book –

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book examines 16 measures of child well-being in four categories ranking states from 1 to 50 according to their outcomes for children. North Carolina ranks 34th in the nation for overall child well-being, faring among the worst states for Economic Well-Being (38), and performing only slightly better for Family and Community (36), and Health (32). North Carolina received its highest rank in Education (28).

“We know what children need to be successful—a healthy start in life, stable families, a quality education, and safe and secure communities,” said Laila A. Bell, director of research and data at NC Child, home of the NC KIDS COUNT project. “These data show our children are at risk of falling behind in key areas, leaving them underprepared to compete and excel in the 21st century economy.”

In 2012, 26 percent of children in North Carolina lived in poverty, up 24 percent from 2005. Studies show poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy growth and development, dampening life trajectories and placing children at risk for a slate of poor outcomes, including reduced academic achievement, high dropout rates, health problems, substance abuse, and greater likelihood of living in poverty during adulthood.

The data suggest North Carolina families are still reeling from the harsh impact of a poor economy. One in three children in North Carolina (33 percent) lives in a family where their parents lack secure employment or have a high housing cost burden (34 percent).

“North Carolina ranks a low 39th for child poverty and a greater share of our children are being raised in high poverty neighborhoods than in West Virginia,” said Bell. “It is important that we invest in solutions that have been shown to help children overcome the negative effects of poverty, like high-quality early education. Unfortunately, more than half of our children ages 3 to 4 are currently not attending preschool, and our legislators have debated proposals to restrict—not expand—access to early education in recent years.”

North Carolina children fared better in the Health domain, improving three out of the four indicators by 20 percent or more during a five-year period. The percentage of children without health insurance declined by 20 percent to 8 percent in 2012; child and teen deaths declined by 21 percent to 27 per 100,000 children ages 1 to 19 in 2010; and, the percentage of teens ages 12 to 17 who reported abusing alcohol or drugs in the past year fell by 25 percent to 6 percent in 2011-2012.

North Carolina slipped one spot in Education, but a closer look at the data reveals significant gains in high school graduation. Between 2005/2006 and 2011/2012, the share of high school students not graduating on time declined by a quarter to 21 percent.

“A well-educated workforce is a powerful tool that drives economic growth,” said Bell. “By 2018, 59 percent of all jobs in North Carolina will require some education beyond high school. Getting students to graduate on time is an important first-step toward ensuring more North Carolina students are on the pathway toward postsecondary education and training.”

Long-Term Trends Highlight the Importance of Strategic Investments

This year’s Data Book marks the 25th edition of the report, which has evolved over time to offer an increasingly sophisticated view of how children fare nationally and by state. Bell says long-term trends highlight the difference effective programs and high quality practice can make in improving child well-being today and over time.

“In two decades, North Carolina has made tremendous progress in reducing the percentage of uninsured children, boosting high school completion rates, and preparing children to read and do math proficiently,” said Bell. “These gains started with strategic investments in public programs like CHIP, preschool, and early intervention—to name a few. In order to preserve and build on this progress we must work together—advocates, citizens, businesses, legislators and communities—to ensure children are a priority on the policy agenda.”

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book is available online at
NC Child is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing public policies that improve the lives of North Carolina children. NC Child works statewide to ensure that all children are healthy, safe, well-educated, and economically secure by engaging communities and informing and influencing decision-makers. For more information, visit

By Dania Douglas, NAMI State Advocacy Manager

“My mental condition was horribly debilitating for many years. I had no reason to get out of bed in the morning….I had no direction and no purpose. Now, when my feet hit the floor, I get to go to work every day and practice my passion.” – Stephanie Joseph, CPA, Office Administrator NAMI, Montgomery County.

Ask 100 different people what work means to them, and you are likely to get 100 different responses. It can simply mean a source of income; it can provide a purpose; it can create order in life; it can be an opportunity for creativity and building something new; it can be a chance to help others.

People with mental illness work successfully in a range of professions: at artists, scientists, famers, engineers, lawyers, construction, workers, chefs. Look anywhere and you will find people with mental illness leading and innovating.

Yet, the reality in America is that many people with mental illness are either unemployed or underemployed. Bouts of illness, difficulty concentrating, trouble communicating with co-workers, medical appointments and absences from work can make getting and keeping a job difficult. Stigma and discrimination can also be great barriers to overcome.

NAMI just released a report, Road to Recovery: Employment and Mental Illness, which explores the current state of mental illness and employment in the United States. It examines the reasons for low unemployment rates among people with mental health conditions, and describes the most effective supported employment programs that have been developed to date. The report is also a call to action for policymakers and advocates. It includes policy recommendations and model legislation that leaders could use to make supported employment programs available to the people who need them.

Almost 80 percent of the nearly 7 million individuals served by the public mental health system in this country are unemployed. About 60 to 70 percent of these same people want to work and would work if they had appropriate support. The current employment support systems we have in place are simply not effective for most people with mental health conditions. It is time for a change.

The good news is that there are employment programs that have been studied, tested, and shown to help people with mental illness choose, get and keep a job.

Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment is a system that focuses on rapid placement in competitive employment and in jobs that match an individual’s talents and interests. IPS has a strong evidence-base shown to significantly improve the opportunities for people with mental illness to find and keep employment.

Clubhouses are community centers open to anyone with a mental illness. Clubhouses offer a variety of employment services including transitional employment and independent employment programs. Both have been proven through research to help improve opportunities to find and keep employment.

Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is a team-based system that provides intensive support services to people with serious mental illness in the community whenever and wherever they are needed 24/7. Every ACT team should include a vocational specialist. ACT has a proven track record of helping people find and keep employment.

When we invest in programs that work, we invest in real lives, in real people, in real success and real recovery.

Click here to read the complete report.

Click here to read the USA coverage.

It’s that time of year again! We’re in the full swing of planning the Annual Conference. This year’s conference, Connecting Two Worlds: The Journey to Wellness, Integrating Physical and Behavioral Health Carewillbe held Friday and Saturday, October 17-18 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh.

We are seeking exhibitors and sponsors for the 2014 NAMI NC Annual Conference! Over 400 people attend between the two days and space is limited! Click here for more details or to fill out the form.

If you would like to attend the conference but are in need of a scholarship, please fill out the form here. For questions on scholarships please contact Brenda Piper or Jennifer Rothman or call 919-788-0801.

We’ve also just released the Annual Awards Nomination Form to recognize those in the community who go above and beyond. Click here to download the form.

Any questions, please feel welcome to contact Robin Kellogg at: or 919-788-0801.

Liz Szabo, at USA TODAY, has written a new article about “systemic discrimination, embedded in Medicaid and Medicare laws”, and how it “has accelerated the emptying of state psychiatric hospitals, leaving many of the sickest and most vulnerable patients with nowhere to turn.”

Click here to read the full article.

NAMI North Carolina, the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is observing Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to raise awareness about severe mental illness in diverse communities during the month of July.

In 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives designated July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Campbell was a leading African American journalist and novelist, and a national spokesperson for individuals and families affected by mental illness. She died in 2006.

“Unfortunately, disparities in mental health care still prevent people in diverse communities from getting the treatment they need. The outcomes of poorer quality of care come at a high cost to our community,” said Deby Dihoff, MA, Executive Director of NAMI North Carolina. “Our goal is to educate people about mental illness, treatment and research, eliminate stigma and prevent economic burden. All people deserve access to quality mental health services.”

Mental illness affects one in four American families and people in diverse communities are no exception. The U.S. Surgeon General reports that minorities:

  • Are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness
  • Have less access to and availability of mental health services
  • Often receive a poorer quality of mental health care
  • Are underrepresented in mental health research

For additional information about National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and to access resources and suggested activities, visit:

Click here to download the press release (PDF)

NAMI NC’s executive director, Deby Dihoff, was featured on the third and final installment of the UNC-TV series on Mental Health: Crisis in North Carolina. It aired Tuesday, June 10 at 7:30 pm. The video can be watched at here.

The first installment can be watched online here and it features NAMI Wake Advocate, Ann Akland.

The second installment looks at the need for law enforcement and how one eastern NC family works to make sure more officers are trained in Crisis Intervention Team Training. It can be watch online here.

NAMI North Carolina recently submitted a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory in response to his recommended budget adjustments.

Governor McCrory,

Our office has had the opportunity to review your proposed budget. We are delighted to see your commitment to those who serve some of the most vulnerable in our communities through raises for teachers and state employees. Additionally, we were pleased to see the budget items for both pre-K programs, which will allow more at risk four year olds to get services along with an expansion in federal block grant funding of community based crisis systems.  We also certainly appreciate that there are no cuts to services to those with disabilities.

One item that was noticeably absent from your budget proposal was an allocation for adult group homes. While there was a short term solution of $4.6 million last session, it’s time to find a long term funding source. Not all of this money was used due to the cutoff in the legislation requiring that they be in residence as of December 31, 2013.  People with mental illnesses may come and go through various settings:  what will happen to those who moved in after January l?  Group homes are part of an array of residential services for those who live with mental illness. They often need the structure of a group home for a period of time following a hospitalization.  Then, they are able to progress to a less restrictive setting. The funding for these services are complicated and need to be simplified through a reasonable, sustainable approach for the long term.  Over a thousand people are at risk of losing their housing and possibly becoming homeless come July l.   This is a very serious concern to us.

A second concern we have is that open access to mental health medications is restricted through your budget.  We had worked closely with legislators last session to protect open access to medications.  Many of those who live with mental illness, including children, have medication management as a critical component of their care. It takes on average 10 years for a doctor and individual living with mental illness to find the correct medication regimen. The research is clear that any barrier to medications for those living with mental illness is associated with higher rates of hospitalization, ER visits, incarceration, and homelessness1.  Given that our state has double the rate of ER utilization for mental health related issues2, prior authorization to medication is something North Carolina just cannot afford.

We understand that your office and our legislature have many difficult decisions and challenges ahead. We are pleased that the public mental health system is successful in getting Medicaid spending under control, and that it is more predictable.  We would ask that you revisit the $6M cut to mental health medications and the group home issue for adults with mental illness.

Thank you for your consideration.


Debra G. Dihoff, MA

Executive Director

Click here for a link to Governor Pat McCrory’s Recommended Budget Adjustments.

1 West, Joyce C., et al. (May 2009). Medication prescription drug policies and medication access and continuity: findings from ten states. Psychiatric Services; Vol. 60, No. 5.

2 Craver, R. (June 2013). N.C. emergency departments see twice as many mental-health patients as those in other states. Winston-Salem Journal

USA Today has launched a series of articles on the “man-made disaster” created by “a mental health system drowning from neglect,” and it’s a don’t-miss.

The cost of not caring: Nowhere to go” tells the story of “the financial and human toll for neglecting the mentally ill” with personal narrative, video and graphics.

This is a disease, just like cancer,” Colorado family member Candie Dalton tells reporter Liz Szabo. “It’s just as devastating. But you don’t get the support. You don’t get people saying, ‘Oh, your child is in the hospital. Can I come over with a casserole?’”

Coverage like this in the third most widely circulated newspaper in America will significantly raise awareness of the need to reform mental health policies and remove obstacles to treatment – and provide an easy way for you to familiarize your community and elected leaders with the consequences of non-treatment.

Once you’ve seen the story, be sure to let USA Today know how much you support their coverage of the devastation caused by neglecting serious mental illness. If you have a personal story to tell in a few words, include it in your letter. Letters must be 200 words or less. You can also:

  • SHARE the story with your friends by clicking on a link from the bottom of the article, tweeting it or posting it on your Facebook page.
  • COMMENT on the story using the link at the end of the article.
  • FORWARD the article to your public officials and tell them you support mental illness treatment policies that will address these problems.

Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the month of May, NAMI and the rest of the country are bringing awareness to mental illness. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger. In 2013, President Obama proclaimed May as National Mental Health Awareness Month and brought the issue of mental health to the forefront of our nation’s thoughts.

We believe that these issues are important to address year round, but highlighting these issues during May provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of the tens of millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

Click here for more resources from NAMI.

The first week of May (4-10, 2014) is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and May 8 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. This time is a time for us to come together to raise awareness about the mental health needs of America’s youngest citizens. It is a day to focus on children and youth living with mental illness and to come together to advocate for a full array of effective services and supports for children affected by mental illness.

Click here for more resources regarding Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day/Week:

NAMI North Carolina and NC Families United are offering an end of May (May as Mental Health Month and Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week/Day) closing event called, “Connect and Learn: Real People, Real Communities” in observance of Mental Health Awareness Month and Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week on Friday, May 30, 2014 from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Marbles Kids Museum, 201 E. Hargett St., Raleigh.

Speakers will include:

  • Dr. Courtney Cantrell, Acting Director for the Division of MH/DD/SAS
  • Heather McAllister, MSW, on the System of Care 101
  • Youth M.O.V.E. North Carolina on “What Helps, What Harms”
  • Laura Muse, LPC, on Early Childhood Intervention

The event will share best practices when working with children and families affected by mental illness. Attendees will walk away with new contacts, new ideas, and a new plan to bring change to your local community.  Those interested in attending should RSVP by May 26, 2014 to Jennifer Rothman or call 919-788-0801.

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