From the White House: NAMI’s View

By Mary Giliberti, J.D. | Jan. 07, 2016

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the President’s announcement on his initiatives to address gun violence. As part of those initiatives, he proposed adding $500 million to the federal budget for mental healthcare. He noted that it is very difficult to access mental health services and that suicide is a terrible problem in this country. Sitting in the East Room of the White House, I was so grateful to hear our President speak to the inadequacies of the current mental health system and the needless loss of life to suicide.

NAMI and our members know that additional resources are desperately needed in mental health care.  We are the ones who are told to come back in three months or go on a wait list if we can even find someone in the first place. For those with very serious conditions, it is very difficult to find the level of services you may need, such as an Assertive Community Treatment team or supportive housing. At this time, we are not sure where the administration will propose adding the $500 million, but we know that the need is vast.

NAMI will be working with the administration and Congressional leaders to support added resources for evidence-based services that help people living with mental illnesses and their families. We will also be working on comprehensive mental health reform. We are grateful for the Republican and Democratic leadership and consensus that mental health should be addressed. NAMI refuses to let partisanship be an excuse for no action. This is not about politics for NAMI members. It is about our lives and the lives of people we love, and we will hold our elected officials accountable for results.

I know that many of our members and supporters are deeply uncomfortable that the President’s initiatives and federal mental health reform efforts are being linked to violence. We want the reform and the resources, but worry about the price in public opinion and stigma. These are very real and valid concerns.

At the same time, we must recognize that the public already equates mental illness and violence due to the diagnosed or speculated illnesses of those involved in Aurora, the Navy Yard, Virginia Tech and others. We must use this opportunity to educate and focus on the scientific research, which indicates that only a very small portion of those with mental illness have an increased risk for violence, particularly when untreated psychosis and substance use are involved. The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, but are actually more likely to be the victims of violence.

Tragedies for individuals with mental illness and their families are happening every day. This is the reason why we must use every opportunity to make the point that we need comprehensive mental health reform and additional resources. Too often, people end up in emergency rooms, jails or homeless on the street. Despite the early onset of these conditions, symptoms are usually not recognized and addressed early enough. NAMI must insist that every person with a mental illness have the opportunity to recover and lead a life full of friends, family, work and home. We can change the experience of mental illness in America; we just need the political will to do it.

Comments
Lynda Schutte
Thank you.
7/21/2016 1:40:41 AM

Madelyn
My sister recently died as a result of neglect of an agency that was supposed to be helping her. They did nothing but set her up to fail and now the sight that they could not help her because she "declined" services. If a person has a serious mental illness isn't it better to by pass the HIPPA laws in that case and work to get them the help that they need? My sister was not capable of making appropriate decisions for her own well being. The system failed!
2/15/2016 4:58:54 PM

Doug
I have a very valid concern, I have a Second Amendment Constitutional Right to own a firearm. I am on Disability for bipolar and anxiety, and I see the President's Executive Order as stripping me of my Constitutional Rights! I want to know what I am supposed to tell my psychiatrist when he asks me, for reporting to the Social Security Administration, if there is a gun in my home? That I want my lawyer? SSA is being required to report me to NCICS for the gun ban because I am on Disability for a mental condition (correct me if I am wrong and misread that). What about my father, who doesn't have a mental illness, but is an avid hunter and sport shooter, but I live in his home? Does this remove his Constitutional Right to Bear Arms because I live here and I receive Disability? I want answers and a stand from NAMI, not to be told that the public already views us as violent when you are also telling us the numbers show we are not.

I am not a felon. I am being equated to a felon status in the Federal NCICS gun ban system because of misinformation about the potential for me to be violent because of a mental illness label alone. I have done nothing wrong to deserve bipolar disorder or Disability. I am not a criminal, nor ever posed a threat to myself or others, nor have I been adjudicated (reasons that already existed for my gun rights to potentially be removed). I am very upset that the President is grossly overstepping his authority, applying a blanket rule against those of us with mental illnesses that are in treatment (those of us on Disability are already in treatment or we would have our Disability benefits taken away) and stripping me of Constitutional Rights when I did nothing wrong.

This is stigma against the mentally ill by our President and it has the impact of keeping those who need help from coming forward to get it because it will potentially nullify their Constitutional Rights. I thought the idea was to expand mental health care and provide more access, not discriminate against those of us who already receive mental health care.
1/10/2016 9:05:06 AM

Cassidy
It could be a big help if there was more resources available in emergency rooms that is where people go in emergencies! But they let people just walk right out after saving them from attempted suicide or discharge someone who came in, unsure if there thoughts are their own! These kinds of things need more attention and people trained to understand why you should keep people for 72 hour holds. Crazy talk with a rational face is misleading and a red flag! Open up your eyes world to seeing how big of a problem untreated mental illness is!!!
1/8/2016 4:33:02 AM

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