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Call for a Commitment to Change

Before recovery can take place, America needs an honest diagnosis--

For an individual living with mental illness, early detection, successful diagnosis and treatment interventions, appropriate medications and systems of support ameliorate symptoms and offer recovery.

However, like an individual in denial, the collective consciousness of our Nation has yet to admit that the societal "symptoms" of homelessness, poverty, incarceration, tragedy and loss of life due to mental illness, not only exist, but neglected and denied bring a diagnosis of death to our common dignity

Human rights extend to all Americans, ill or well. It is an outrage to deny them, particularly at such great cost. But, we don’t want to admit we are sick. Sick with a disease that, when untreated, miserably distorts shared reality and threatens our conscious control. Will America own a responsible diagnosis of its mental health?

With the introduction of psychotropic medications in the 50s, the movement of deinstitutionalization commenced, emphasizing community living for individuals formerly housed in state mental hospitals. What outcomes have been produced by these promises of full community living?

"Mental health clients have in fact been integrated into our communities; we see them on the street corners and sleeping in parks. They are integrated into our jails and prisons; many are behind bars on what officers call "mercy bookings" – jailed for their protection, not the public’s. They are disproportionately represented among the poor, the victims of crime, the unemployed and the homeless," according to California’s Little Hoover Commission (LHC) report.

"Many of us are uncomfortable with what we see and are not sure how to respond. We too often avert our eyes from the face of mental illness. And our public policies reflect this discomfort," states the LHC. "What sets mental health apart from other social and medical causes is that we do not share a collective expectation or sense of responsibility—and as a result there is little outrage when mental health programs fail."

NAMI Executive Director Dr. Richard Birkel said, "We need to build a comprehensive, efficient system to screen, evaluate, diagnose and treat mental illnesses at every stage of life. We need a system that affirms principles of individual liberty and freedom – which are as old as the values in our nation’s Declaration of Independence.

"We are living in a scientific revolution that began in the 70s: a political revolution is needed as well," Dr. Birkel continued. " We can no longer tolerate the wholesale failure to treat people with mental illnesses with what we know works. We must act now to build a new revolution. Our lives and those of our children depend upon it. The time to act together is now."

NAMI’s Campaign for the Mind of America is building partnerships and preparing to engage in changing the current failed state of mental health care in America. New research outcomes and information will soon be available to the public to assist us all as we move forward together in The Campaign for the Mind of America.

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