NAMI Looks Ahead to 35 Years in 2014

FROM NAMI BLOG
by Courtney Reyers, NAMI Director of Publishing

Next year marks NAMI’s 35th anniversary. Recent years have seen landmark changes in health care reform, something NAMI has steadfastly worked toward throughout its history.

In 2013, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion—which are still underway— were important steps forward for individuals and families affected by mental illness. But there are many more areas of growth and success that can be noted as we step into 2014.

NAMI’s signature education program, NAMI Family-to-Family, was officially declared an evidence-based practice this year, putting a seal of approval on what tens of thousands of families already knew: F2F really helps in learning to understand and cope with mental illness. NAMI also offers other education and support programs; the newest ones are NAMI Ending the Silence and NAMI Homefront, both launched since Nov. 20.

Another area of tremendous growth has been NAMI On Campus. Onset of mental illness often occurs in a person’s teens or twenties. Early intervention requires education and awareness as well as communities with resources to provide support to young people in need.

Throughout 2013, NAMI also has been engaged in the National Dialogue on Mental Health that flowed from the Sandy Hook tragedy approximately a year ago. It has included fighting for a broad agenda of initiatives. It also has included efforts to eliminate stigma and building new partnerships.

One outlet that fosters a great sense of community and inspires hope is NAMI’s story-sharing hub,You Are Not Alone. NAMI members and friends tell us regularly that the personal stories they read submitted by others who have experienced mental illness have helped them immensely. (Please feel free to share your own story if you would like!).

NAMI also offers a national, toll-free HelpLine, 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264) which fields more than 2,000 calls and sends out more than 100 packets of information and brochures each month. It is a critical service, staffed by trained volunteers, for individuals and families seeking information about mental illness and the mental health care system.

NAMI works every day to save lives. From battling stigma to addressing cultural disparities to reaching out to youth and advocating with policymakers, NAMI is there, fighting for and alongside the millions of Americans who face mental illness in their daily lives.

For all the progress made in 2013, we know the fight will continue. We also know we depend on the support of NAMI members, friends and readers to sustain our work. Thank you for your continued help. We look forward to working with you throughout the New Year, as part of a community dedicated to hope and recovery.

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Screening for Suicide Risk

From Psychiatric News Alert: While there is no screening tool proven to identify people at risk of suicide, a new study suggests that the commonly used Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) depression-assessment instrument may be a useful screening tool for detecting suicide risk.

In particular, Item 9 of that questionnaire (“Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way” or a question to that effect depending on the version) was a strong predictor of suicide attempt and suicide death over the following year.

Even after accounting for treatment history and demographic factors, “item 9 remained a strong predictor of any suicide attempt,” the researchers said. In their report “Does Response on the PHQ-9 Questionnaire Predict Subsequent Suicide Attempt or Suicide Death?” in the December Psychiatric Services, Gregory Simon, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues explained that the immediate risk of suicide attempt was low but increased over several days and continued to grow for several months, indicating a need for follow-up care to address ongoing risk. “Suicidal ideation should be viewed as an enduring vulnerability rather than simply a short-term crisis,” they said.

To read more about recent research on suicide risk, see the Psychiatric News article “Psychotic Symptoms Found to Be Strong Suicide Risk Factor in Teens.”

NAMI Homefront–New Education Program for Military/Veteran Families

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/—The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is launching a new program to provide education and support to families of Military Service Members and Veterans affected by major mental health conditions.

NAMI Homefront” is based on the evidence-based NAMI Family-to-Family education program, which has been used in recent years at U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health facilities.

NAMI Homefront adapts the NAMI Family-to-Family curriculum to the unique needs of military and veterans’ communities, such as post-deployment and post-discharge transitions.

“When one person in a family is living with a mental health problem, the entire family is challenged,” said NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick. “Families of Service Members and Veterans are not immune, particularly in the case of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

“NAMI Homefront’s mission is to provide education for managing conditions, provide support and to help break down the stigma of seeking help.”

In early 2014, NAMI will begin to implement the new program in six states. The free course is comprised of six peer-led sessions of instruction. Trained teachers in the program have family members who themselves are Service Members or Veterans and live with mental illness.

In a second phase, NAMI will offer a free online option nationwide.

The new program will become one of ten NAMI signature education and support programs.

NAMI Homefront is being funded by grants from the Bristol Myers-Squibb (BMS) Foundation, Cigna Foundation, Janssen Research and Development, Inc., Universal Health Services, Inc. (UHS) and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Biden Announces $100 Million to Increase Mental Health Services Access

December 10, Vice President Biden announced that $100 million will soon be available to increase access to mental health services and improve mental health facilities.

“The fact that less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need is unacceptable.  The President and I have made it a priority to do everything we can to make it easier to access mental health services, and today’s announcements by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture build on that commitment.”

  • $50 Million for Mental Health Services at Community Health Centers:  The Department of Health and Human Services will issue a $50 million funding opportunity to help Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness or addiction.
  • $50 Million to Improve Mental Health Facilities:  Because proximity to mental health services can be a unique challenge in rural America, the Department of Agriculture has a new goal:  finance $50 million for the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years.

The Affordable Care Act expands mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits and federal parity protections for approximately 60 million Americans. The law also requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost to consumers. And starting in 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge individuals more due to pre-existing health conditions, including mental illnesses.

In addition, the President’s FY 2014 Budget proposes a new $130 million initiative to address several barriers that may prevent people from accessing help. The initiative proposes to train teachers to recognize signs of mental illness and refer students to mental health services when needed. It supports the training of an additional 5,000 mental health professionals.  And it would give grants to states to implement innovative strategies to help young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues. The Administration calls on Congress to appropriate funds for these important purposes.

Lecture Series by Friends of the Semel Institute

CAAW901The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior is a volunteer organization dedicated to supporting and enhancing state of the art research and treatment for illnesses of the mind and brain. The group has hosted “Open Mind” lectures since at least 2005, and the upcoming lectures are well-worth considering.

February 4, 2014: Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on psychology, politics, and the arts; winner of the National Book Award; and an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, and the arts. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity is a book of extraordinary ambition. Solomon sets out to understand how parents raise children who are radically different from them, children whose “vertical” identity, traits passed from parent to child, is overshadowed by extraordinary “horizontal” traits such as deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, genius, children of rape, crime and transgenderism.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014: David Sheff

David Sheff is an American author of the New York Times best-selling memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and Clean, a myth-shattering look at drug abuse. Based on the latest research in psychology, neuroscience, and medicine, Clean is a leap beyond the traditional approaches to prevention and treatment of addiction and the mental illnesses that usually accompany it. Sheff, a journalist, has written for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune, and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Timothy Fong, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Co-Director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program and Director of the UCLA Addiction Medicine Clinic, will be the faculty speaker joining David Sheff to discuss addiction.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014: Bi-Polar Disorder

Journalist, film critic, and author Juliann Garey will talk about her first novel, Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See, and her experience with bi-polar disorder. Dr. Michael Gitlin, Director of the Adult Division of Psychiatry, Director of the Mood Disorders Clinic in the UCLA Dept of Psychiatry and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA will join Ms. Garey to discuss bi-polar disorder.

All lectures are at UCLA. Visit the site of The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior at UCLA for more information about the lecture series, how you can help and/or the Institute.

The Semel Institute is a world-renowned multidisciplinary research institute dedicated to the study of mind, brain and behavior. Since its founding, the Institute has assembled more than 370 physicians, clinical researchers and scientists to work collaboratively in studying psychiatric and neurological disorders and to develop new, effective treatments that improve lives. Its research and clinical programs include:

  • Alzheimer‘s Disease, Memory and Aging
  • Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Neurological Rehabilitation and Neural Repair
  • Human Sexuality
  • Substance Abuse and Addiction
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Mood Disorders
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Behavioral Pharmacology
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Psychooncology Suicide Prevention
  • Autism
  • Neuropsychiatry and Epilepsy
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rehabilitation in Chronic Psychosis
  • Trauma and Anxiety
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Pain Management
  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychoneuroimmunology

Twitter Chat on Depression with NIMH–Dec. 20, 2013

2 to 3 pm ET

Everyone feels down or sad sometimes, but these feelings usually pass after a few days. If feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and fatigue persist for weeks at a time, you may have depression.

Each year about 6.7 percent of U.S. adults experience depression. Depression often co-occurs with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Because many older adults face these illnesses, a common misperception is that depression is a normal part of aging. While depression is common in older adults, it does not have to be a usual way of life.

Don’t let depression dampen your mood this holiday season. Please join the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on Friday, December 20, 2013, from 2 to 3 pm ET for a Twitter chat on depression and older adults. Jovier Evans, Ph.D., who is Chief of the Geriatric Translational Neuroscience Program at NIMH will be on-hand to discuss the topic and answer your questions. Please use the hashtag #NIMHchats to follow and participate in the Twitter chat.

For more information, see the NIMH Site.

Four Mental Illness Recovery Patterns Identified in Study

A two-year study of patients with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or affective psychosis reveals four recovery trajectories and the factors that affect those outcomes. Generally speaking, those four trajectories are:

  • Stable with a high level of recovery
  • Stable with a lower level of recovery
  • Fluctuating high-level recovery
  • Fluctuating low-level recovery

Of the factors that affect recovery, having access to good-quality mental health care—defined as including satisfying relationships with clinicians, responsiveness to needs, satisfaction with psychiatric medications, receipt of services at needed levels, support in managing deficits in resources and strains, and care for general medical conditions—may facilitate or improve recovery trajectories.

These results are promising, because all too often, serious mental illness is seen as incurable, permanent, and progressively deteriorating. The reality is that as many as 60% to 70% of patients can achieve a measurable level of recovery. Carla Green Ph.D., M.P.H., and colleagues of the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, in Portland, Ore., reported the findings in their report, “Recovery From Serious Mental Illness: Trajectories, Characteristics, and the Role of Mental Health Care” in the December Psychiatric Services.

“Few demographic or diagnostic factors differentiated clusters at baseline. Consistent predictors of trajectories included psychiatric symptoms, physical health, resources and strains, and use of psychiatric medications.” 

The most consistent predictors of recovery were psychiatric symptoms and changes in those symptoms. Those in turn are dependent on good-quality care, which includes satisfaction with their clinicians and with the medications they are taking. “Providing such care has the potential to change recovery trajectories over time.”