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November 7, 2003

Community Leaders Unite: Public Health Crisis Calls for Change

Documented Need for Change

People living with mental illness in America are paying a high price for the failures of our mental health system and the policies that govern it. TRIAD, NAMI’s Treatment/Recovery Information and Advocacy Database, released data in its first report titled Shattered Lives compiled from interviews with 3400 individuals living with serious mental illnesses in all 50 states.

This landmark national survey revealed the failing outcomes and failing hope for people receiving services from America’s current mental health system. Statistics show that 86% are in the prime of life, between 18 and 54, but two-thirds are unemployed and 55% live on an annual income below $10,000. Nearly half were hospitalized last year; 40% had crisis emergency care; and 44% were detained or arrested by police.

As when one turns from looking in the eyes of a distressed and homeless person in the street, so America has acted as though the priceless lives of nearly 18 million adults and 8.1 million young Americans are to be ignored.

Call to Accountability

"It's time to hold the public mental health system accountable," said Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D., executive director of NAMI, The Nation’s Voice on Mental Illness. "TRIAD was launched to monitor this system in crisis and hold policy-makers and providers, underwritten by our tax dollars, accountable. Shattered Lives is an appalling baseline describing a failed system—and far worse—shamefully wasted American lives."

NAMI is not alone in its assessment of a failed mental health treatment system. Michael Hogan, Ph.D., chair of President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health reported after the past year’s arduous study, "Today’s mental health care system is a patchwork relic—the result of disjointed reforms and policies. …The commission recommends a fundamental transformation of the nation’s approach to mental health care."

Campaign Unites Communities

Community leaders from education, law enforcement, business and overall healthcare are uniting in NAMI’s Campaign for the Mind of America. Monday, November 10th the new partners initiative in the Campaign was launched from the national press club in Washington, D.C.

"NAMI’s Campaign for the Mind of America—and TRIAD is a part of that—is uniting citizens who are outraged at the public neglect, discrimination and abuse persons with serious mental illnesses endure," said Birkel. "How are we going to confront this crisis in our communities? It must be together—with courage and dignity and determination."

Sponsors in NAMI’s Campaign for the Mind of America

Key to empowering NAMI’s Campaign for the Mind of America is The Mind of America Foundation. This working body of dedicated prominent citizens have formed a public/private partnership committed to bring the facts about mental illness and recovery to a wider public in order to eradicate stigma, improve access to scientific treatment and supports and transform the mental healthcare system in America.

The Foundation is dedicated to these principles:

  1. All Americans have a right to receive the most effective treatments available to overcome the serious and disabling mental disorders that affect between 18 million adults and 8.1 million young Americans; and
  2. Provision of effective treatment and support to those in need is sensible and compassionate public policy.

Supporting Factors of these principles

  • Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders. They cannot be overcome through "will power" and are not related to a person’s "character" or intelligence.
  • Mental disorders fall along a continuum of severity. The most serious and disabling conditions such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders affect five to ten million adults (2.6 – 5.4%) and three to five million children ages five to seventeen (5 – 9%) in the United States.
  • Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability (lost years of productive life) in the North America, Europe and, increasingly, in the world. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for adults and children.
  • Mental illnesses strike individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. All ages are susceptible, but the young and the old are especially vulnerable.
  • Without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives; The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States.
  • The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports; and
  • Early identification and treatment is of vital importance; By getting people the treatment they need early, recovery is accelerated and the brain is protected from further harm related to the course of illness.

To support the Mind of America Foundation and its Campaign for the Mind of America, make a secure online donation now. Your comments are also welcomed and encouraged.

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