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NAMI...National Alliance on Mental Illness

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (also known as N AMI ) was founded in 1979 as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. NAMI is a nation-wide American advocacy group representing families and people affected by mental illnesses is a non-profit grass roots organization and has affiliates in every American state and in thousands of local communities in the country. NAMI's mission is to provide support, education, advocacy, and research for people and their families living with mental illness through various public education and awareness activities.

Any family can find themselves dealing with a mentally ill family member. This was the reason for the start of NAMI. Needing support in dealing with their mentally ill family members parents turned to each other for answers . The federal government started Community Support Programs (CSP) to de-institutionalization the mental health program. During the Learning Community Conferences (LCCs) NAMI was encouraged to help with the CSP's goals to educate and support in the rehabilitation process. NAMI members not only advocated for their own children but for others. Constance Walker served 22 years in the Navy and her son Mike joined the army but became mentally ill. Walker being a member of NAMI submitted a statement to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs United States Senate about veteran mental health accessibility .

Some alarming statistics everyone should be aware of:

  • 20% of children and adolescents in the USA suffer from from a mental illness. Of these children, only 1in 5 receives services- 80% fail to receive needed treatment.

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  • An alarming 65% of boys and 75% of girls in juvenile detention have at least one psychiatric diagnosis. These youth have fallen through the cracks in the health care, education and child welfare systems.

  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds . Over 90% of children and adolescents who commit suicide have a mental illness.

  • By the year 2020 childhood neuropsychiatric disorders will rise proportionately by over 50% to become one of the five most common causes of morbidity, mortality and disability among children.

  • Our nation has approximately 6,300 child and adolescent psychiatrists with a need at 32,000.

  • School professionals must be trained to recognize the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness.

  • When compared with other diseases, including cancer and heart disease, mental illness ranks first in causing disability in the US, Canada and Western Europe.

Information adapted from Wikipedia and NAMI Child and Adolescent Center

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To learn more about NAMI and how you can help please contact

My Story: I'll Walk In My Own Shoes, Thank You!

A few weeks ago after making some fifty tiresome and stressful phone calls, I finally found a psychiatrist who would evaluate my daughter. The mistake I made in placing these calls was that I relayed to the receptionists that my daughter had autism. After being told repeatedly that the doctors don't treat autism (a concept I still don't quite understand), I obtained an appointment because I said she had never had a formal diagnosis.

We arrived at the appointment and I believe I was the one who had the most anxiety. How do I explain my daughter's behavior yet again? There comes a time when you don't think you have the strength to go through it one more time. He took my daughter in first and talked with her for less than ten minutes. My husband and I were then summoned into his office, and he asked me why she hadn't been evaluated or seen a psychiatrist in such a long time (it had been at least twenty years). I explained that no one has ever been able to help her. She can't go to therapy because she doesn't know and can't articulate what her problems are, those being, OCD, Asperger's syndrome (considered a form of autism), and a low IQ. I told him that I needed to try again to find help for her because she appeared to be getting worse ( poor mood, disrespect, depression), and quite frankly by the year 2011, I assumed there had to be advancements made as to the treatment of autism. Sadly, there are none because autism is a developmental disorder while other mental impairments such as schizophrenia are bio-chemical.

I tried to explain everything about my daughter. He looked at me and said, "You know your daughter better than anyone ever could, but you need to know that she is not getting worse. You have 'caretaker burnout.' Don't take this the wrong way, but you need a shoulder to cry on and it's not your husband's because he's living this too. You need someone who has experienced what you have gone through and can empathize with you." This was incredulous to me. How could I have caretaker burnout with my own daughter? I knew that I had had it with my first husband, but he was physically sick. He then asked us if we had ever considered going to "nami."  The doctor appeared to be from Vietnam and I pondered as to why he thought going to Vietnam would be a good idea. I thought better of the question, avoided looking at Daniel (who had been thinking the same thing), and asked what "nami" was. He told us that NAMI stands for National Association for the Mentally Impaired, and they offer support for families caring for a mentally ill relative. I was leery about it but also hopeful that someone there would understand the road I have been traveling for 35 years.

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Former teacher, business owner and now retired. This is my favorite job of all. Regular contributor to Open Salon. All of my work is non-fiction and my first book "Heart Full of Hope" is now available on Amazon and Kindle.

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