NAMI NC is asking all to take the StigmaFree Pledge

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

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness North Carolina (NAMI NC) held its eleventh annual NAMIWalks on Saturday, May 2 at Dorothea Dix Campus in Raleigh. NAMIWalks is a 2.3 mile walk to raise awareness and support for North Carolinians living with mental illness. Proceeds from the walk will be used for critical mental health programs, education, support and advocacy.

This year’s NAMIWalks brought together over 1,400 mental health consumers, family members and friends, volunteers, mental health professionals, and private and corporate sponsors from across the state. The walk, which began at 10 a.m., included family fun, featuring bounce houses, prizes, corn hole, refreshments, music, and more.

“One in five Americans are affected by mental illness and one in 20 adults experience a serious mental illness in a given year. We know that mental illness can substantially interfere with or limit day-to-day life,” said Jack Register, MSW, Executive Director of NAMI NC.

“NAMIWalks brings the community together to raise awareness that recovery is possible and treatments work, and to raise support for vital services. It is time to focus on the need for an improved mental health system, which recognizes signs of mental illness and provides quick access to services.”

NAMIWalks fundraising efforts will continue until June 22—it’s not too late to raise money for this important cause. To donate, visit namiwalks.org/northcarolina. For more information visit namiwalks.org/northcarolina, or call 919-788-0801 or email Robin Kellogg at rkellogg@naminc.org.

NAMI NC executive director, Jack Register, was invited to speak with Caroline Blair at TWC News 14 Carolina to talk about NAMIWalks and important issues facing our community.

Click here to view the video.

By Lisa Grele Barrie, the president and CEO of NC Theatre.

Experiencing the Broadway production of “Next to Normal” in 2009, starring Alice Ripley, was one of those memorable theater moments that left an indelible mark on my soul. It reinforced the “role of theatre” as described by Arthur Miller, to “grab you and shake you by the back of your neck!” Collaborators Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s desire to combat the stigma of mental illness through a story about how a family copes with a mental health crisis and what it means to be “normal” are more relevant than ever before, and NC Theatre is excited to share this important story with our patrons.

The data is compelling: one in four in the US have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness. From mild depression and anxiety, to more severe manifestations including bipolar and schizophrenia, it is highly likely that every single member of our audience and community have been impacted in some way. It’s the safe vessel of theater that can help neutralize a topic that some consider shameful or associated with stigma. As we process the story after the lights go down, we have the opportunity to build reservoirs of empathy and develop a greater appreciation of our shared humanity. And that’s what we hope will take place after each and every performance, and especially after the post-show conversations we’ll be hosting after the matinee performances on Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3. Come process your experience with us!

I’ve been inspired by some of the random, yet compelling conversations that I’ve experienced when discussing “Next to Normal” in the community. When offered a safe space, I bear witness to stories of suicide, bipolar and schizophrenia, and I share my own. And after each encounter, I feel more fully alive and grateful for the honesty and depth of these interactions. It is my hope that this show will spark some of those conversations with our audience; that it may forge new community connections and create opportunities to heal old wounds and perhaps prevent new ones from developing.

I’m especially proud that NC Theatre is undertaking this important work in the sensitive, skillful hands of our artistic director, Casey Hushion. Our all-star cast starring Raleigh favorites Lauren Kennedy and English Bernhardt, alongside Charlie Pollock, Mike Schwitter, Charlie Brady and Ben Fankahuser will no doubt rival the Broadway cast and leave a lasting impression on our audiences. As a complement to this production, a teen ensemble from the NCT Conservatory has created a piece about teen depression that will give light to this urgent issue facing today’s youth. As the mother of two post-adolescent sons, this issue hits close to my heart.

We are excited to produce this show during National Mental Health Awareness Month to amplify a meaningful community conversation about and around mental health, in partnership with many dynamic mental health organizations in this community including Foundation of HopeNAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) Wake County and North Carolina,Triangle Family ServicesAlliance Behavioral Healthcare and more. All of these agencies provide a range of free resources for people living with a mental illness from support groups to counseling services for individuals or families. They provide education, advocacy and the extra support families in crisis often seek.

Please join us for this emotionally charged, feel-everything musical at NC Theatre!

“Next to Normal”
May 1-10, 2015
A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater
Tickets start at $29.20
Produced by North Carolina Theatre

Medicaid reform has been the hot topic during this long session, and for good reason. It is time for North Carolina to move to an integrated care model that is whole person focused, fiscally responsible, accountable for quality outcomes, and most importantly, accountable for quality care. There have been numerous bills filed, and some proposals would change the delivery model for mental health services in our state. Health care reform is not a new idea for people with a mental illness in NC. Just look at the closure of hospital beds, the impending sale of Dorothea Dix, and the creation (and continued merging) of Local Management Entities-Managed Care Organizations (LME-MCOs.)  To put it simply, people with mental illness have been subject to the throes and whims of “reform.”

What has reform given us? Less psychiatric hospital beds (which has us in a severe shortage per national reports), more use of our ERs, and a complex system for getting into the right type of care at the right time in the right setting.  What are the consequences when just one factor is absent? Instead of sitting in front of a psychiatrist or therapist, people are waiting days in the ER, under bridges, or housed in jail or prison. We are just now starting to see the dust settle with the LME-MCOs and some sense of predictability and stability.

Do we think the LME-MCO system is perfect? Absolutely not. Do we think the LME-MCO system has demonstrated success managing the care of people with mental illness? Yes. Through capitation, the LME-MCO has given the General Assembly predictability in costs.  People with mental illness in NC have been treated as guinea pigs. Now that we have settled on a model, let’s give it time to mature and build on the strengths and “lessons learned” from the LME-MCO system and move forward with meaningful integration.

Signed,
Jack Register, MSW, Executive Director & Registered Lobbyist
Nicholle Karim, LCSW, Public Policy Coordinator & Registered Lobbyist
NAMI North Carolina

The NAMIWalks planning committee geared up for NAMIWalks by visiting the walk site at Dorothea Dix in Raleigh to fine tune the walk day details and make this the best year yet! And we even walked the entire route and tried our hand at sign flipping. We’re not quitting our day jobs yet!

NAMIWalks is proud to be the largest and most successful mental health awareness and fundraising event in America! Through NAMIWalks’ public, active display of support for people affected by mental illness, we are changing how Americans view persons with a mental illness. This is leading to ensuring that help and hope are available for those in need. Please join us as we improve lives and our communities one step at a time!

Use hashtag #namiwalksnc when sharing the video. Click here for more information about NAMIWalks on May 2!

BY ANN DOSS HELMS
04/13/2015

If North Carolina were to expand Medicaid coverage, savings and revenue would likely offset the cost to state taxpayers, a recent study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation indicates.

North and South Carolina are among 22 states that have refused to accept federal money to extend Medicaid to able-bodied, low-income adults as part of the Affordable Care Act. Although the federal government pays 100 percent of the cost for expansion through 2016 and at least 90 percent after that, some state leaders have balked at the additional state cost, which is estimated at just over $3 billion for North Carolina over 10 years.

The foundation, working with Manatt Health Solutions, studied the first year’s results from eight states that did expand Medicaid – Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia – and found gains ranging from $4 million in West Virginia to $204 million in Michigan. The numbers are expected to rise in 2015.

Deborah Bachrach, a partner at Manatt, outlined some of the areas where North Carolina could expect to benefit from expansion:

  • Some people who are now receiving mental health and substance abuse services paid for by the state would qualify for Medicaid, shifting the costs to the federal government.
  • Some prisoners would have their hospital bills covered by Medicaid if they qualified under the expansion.
  • Under the current system, the state picks up 34 percent of the tab for people with disabilities and pregnant women who get Medicaid coverage. Under expansion, Bachrach said, some of those people would be covered with the federal government picking up the full tab.

Bachrach said the foundation and Manatt released the study now in part because they want legislators in non-expansion states to see the numbers. But it’s far from clear whether the report will sway anyone in North Carolina’s state legislature. So far there’s been no talk of expansion, with Medicaid reform bills introduced this year focusing on new ways to control costs for the existing client base.

Link to article

RALEIGH, NC (April 2, 2015) – The National Alliance on Mental Illness North Carolina (NAMI NC) will be holding its eleventh annual NAMIWalks on Saturday, May 2 at Dorothea Dix Campus in Raleigh. NAMIWalks is a 2.4 mile walk to raise awareness and support for North Carolinians living with mental illness. Proceeds from the walk will be used for critical mental health programs, education, support and advocacy.

NAMI North Carolina’s eleventh annual NAMIWalks will bring together over 1,500 mental health consumers, family members and friends, volunteers, mental health professionals, and private and corporate sponsors from across the state. Registration for the event begins at 9 a.m. on the Dorothea Dix Campus in Raleigh. The walk, which begins at 10 a.m. will also include family fun, featuring bounce houses, prizes, corn hole, refreshments, music and more. The walk is dog-friendly.

“One in five Americans are affected by mental illness and one in 20 adults experience a serious mental illness in a given year. We know that mental illness can substantially interfere with or limit day-to-day life,” said Jack Register, MSW, Executive Director of NAMI NC. “NAMIWalks brings the community together to raise awareness that recovery is possible and treatments work, and to raise support for vital services. It is time to focus on the need for an improved mental health system, which recognizes signs of mental illness and provides quick access to services.”

NAMI North Carolina is pleased to announce that Michael McDonald, CEO of Holly Hill Hospital and NAMI NC Board member, will serve as our Business Team Chair. Holly Hill Hospital is the Business Team Partner this year.

There is no fee to participate in the walk. Those who raise at least $100 will receive a t-shirt.

To register to walk, go online to namiwalks.org/northcarolina. For more information call 919-788-0801 or email Robin Kellogg at rkellogg@naminc.org.

About NAMI North Carolina

For over 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 34 local affiliates across North Carolina, who join together to meet the NAMI mission. For more information on programs, our advocacy efforts and the 34 affiliate organizations in North Carolina, visit our website at naminc.org.

NAMI shares the grief of the rest of the world over the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525.  We extend our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this senseless tragedy.

As often happens in tragedies, information emerges first through an immediate frenzy of reporting in news media and then through more careful analysis. It is always best not to speculate on causes, but to wait until all facts are confirmed and assessed.

In this case, as news cycles have progressed, we’ve been told that the co-pilot who crashed the plane had some history of depression. Most recently, a German prosecutor has reported that he had “received psychotherapy for an extended period of time, during which suicidal tendencies had been noted,” while the airline has reported in 2009 he had disclosed to them a previous episode of severe depression. Treatment apparently occurred before he received his pilot’s license.

He also apparently was being seen for one or more other medical issues. How relevant those factors actually are remains to be seen.

We know that by crashing the plane, the co-pilot killed himself, along with 149 other people.

We know that most suicides involve mental illness.

In the United States, approximately 40,000 people die from suicide each year.  Obviously, we are falling far too short in suicide prevention.

Typically, suicide involves a struggle between a person and his or her own psychological problem. Murder-suicides are very rare. Murder-suicides conducted by commercial airline pilots are even rarer—extremely rare—although that of course is no consolation to the victims of Flight 9525, their families and friends.

People living with mental illness are rarely violent. Usually, mental illness is only one factor, among several, if not many, that set the stage for violent tragedies.

In the case of Flight 9252’s co-pilot, the fact is that we don’t know his full history yet. We may never know every relevant fact. His precise history of depression, whatever it may have been, may ultimately be seen as unimportant compared to other issues in his life.

Please keep that point in mind as the global conversation now turns to whether anyone who experiences mental illness should be allowed to serve in certain occupations or professions. Mental illness is treatable. People do recover.

Senseless tragedies must not be allowed to resurrect or perpetuate stigmatizing stereotypes that associate anyone with a history of mental illness with a propensity to violence. It will be an additional tragedy if the crash of Flight 9525 leads to “witch hunts” in which people who have sought help for mental illness become unfairly discriminated against.

Sixteen million American adults—almost 7 percent of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.  When depressive symptoms occur, people need to see a doctor for a comprehensive examination. Underlying medical issues that can mimic a depressive episode, side effects from medications or any other medical causes must first be ruled out, before a treatment plan is chosen.

As a society, we need to create a cultural environment in which people are encouraged to seek help when they need it—regardless of whether it is a mental illness or any other illness.  No one should have to hide out of fear of negative consequences or reprisals such as loss of employment or social ridicule.

We want a society that affirms the worth of every individual—the same kind of affirmation that causes us to mourn the loss of so many precious lives on Flight 9525.

RALEIGH, NC (March 25, 2015) – The National Alliance on Mental Illness North Carolina (NAMI North Carolina) has signed their name in support of legislation was introduced in the General Assembly on Monday that will provide tax-advantaged savings options to people with disabilities, including those will mental illness, and their families.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act will give many individuals with disabilities and their families the opportunity to save for the future and fund essential expenses like medical and dental care, education, community based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing and transportation. The law allows eligible individuals with disabilities the ability to create “ABLE accounts” which resemble the qualified tuition programs, often called “529 accounts,” that have been established under that section of the tax code since 1996. By saving for and funding critical daily expenses, these ABLE accounts will give North Carolinians with disabilities greater opportunities for long-term financial security.

“We are very excited for what the ABLE Act can mean for families and individuals living with serious mental illness in our state,” said Nicholle Karim, Public Policy Coordinator for NAMI North Carolina. “Now families are able to save money for the future without risking their benefit eligibility.”

To qualify for an ABLE account, an individual must be diagnosed with a qualifying disability prior to age 26. An ABLE account must be established in the state in which the individual lives, and they may have only one account. Anyone can contribute to an ABLE account. However, the maximum annual contribution to an account is currently set at $14,000 with a principal cap of $100,000. Earnings and distribution on ABLE accounts are tax-exempt.

“While we are pleased with the opportunities that this Act affords to eligible families, we understand many understand many families will be disqualified due to the age cap,” said Karim. “We’re looking forward to the day when age limits to qualify are expanded since people can develop mental illness at any point in their life.”

The ABLE Act’s success stems not only from the opportunities it affords qualifying individuals with disabilities, but also the unprecedented, homegrown bipartisan and bicameral support it has received both in Congress and here in the North Carolina General Assembly. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) was a key player in creating the ABLE Act, one of the most bipartisan bills in Congress. Similarly, North Carolina Senators Tamara Barringer, Tom Apodaca and Ralph Hise as well as several supporters in the House see ABLE accounts as a key component in improving the lives of many North Carolinians with disabilities.

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 34 local affiliates across North Carolina, who join together to meet the NAMI mission. For more information on programs, our advocacy efforts and the 34 affiliate organizations in North Carolina, visit our website at naminc.org.

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