NAMI Takes a Stand During a White House Mental Health Panel

JUN. 17, 2016

By Happy Carlock


Knowledge is power.

Yet there remains a shortage of knowledge about mental illness and its impact on individuals and families across the country. As NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti told an audience at the White House on June 7, one of NAMI’s primary goals is to empower people with knowledge about mental health.

Giliberti spoke on a panel of mental health experts as part of the White House’s five-part series entitled “Making Health Care Better.” The series highlights improvements in the country’s health system over the past seven years. Mental health is making its way to the forefront of that movement.

The panel focused on access to care and changing the culture surrounding mental health, highlighting experiences of individuals, families and caregivers. As Giliberti pointed out, one of the greatest challenges faced by Americans living with mental illness is navigating the mental health system.

“I take our HelpLine calls. One of the questions I always have to ask them is: ‘Do you need care in your insurance network?’” she said. “I promise you, the CEO of the American Heart Association is not asking [can you find] in-network care for cardiac care.”

Justice and equality are two issues also in the national conversation. Around 2 million Americans with mental illness reside in our jails each year (according to a 2013 study), which is more than double the population of D.C.

“I can’t think of a greater injustice for people than to be locked up because you can’t get care,” she said.

That is why organizations like NAMI are working to ensure mental health services and supports are available to all Americans, especially the unreached and underserved.

D.C. isn’t the only hub of power holders where conversations about mental health are gaining traction.

Under the leadership of co-president Barbara Ricci, NAMI New York City Metro is working to raise mental health awareness in the workplace. Ricci also spoke on the White House panel, challenging business leaders to break the silence at work surrounding mental health.

Ricci has led two CEO summits on mental health in the workplace and has assisted in compiling a toolkit for business leaders that aims to achieve mental health parity, build a culture of wellbeing and educate business leaders about the importance of their employees’ mental health.

“We need to normalize conversations about mental health in the workplace so that people realize they’re not alone,” Ricci said. “Talking about mental health sends a powerful message that it’s ok to get help.”

Ricci has experienced the stigma of mental illness at her own job on Wall Street. Twenty-five years ago, her brother had a serious episode of psychosis, and she had to miss work to help him find care. “Back then, no one ever talked about mental health in the workplace,” Ricci said. “Fast forward to 2016, and mental health is a business issue.”

There are 200 million missed work days a year due to depression. Depression treatment is effective 80% of the time, but only about one-third of Americans actively seek treatment for fear of repercussions at work and an inability to access care, Ricci said.

Other panelists at the event included Barbara Van Dahlen, Founder of Give an Hour; Bob Filbin, Crisis Text Line Chief Data Scientist; Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health; Allen Doederlein, President of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance; and Debbie Plotnick, Vice President for Mental Health and Systems Advocacy at Mental Health America.

The more Americans that start the conversation about mental health in the workplace, in politics and in the criminal justice community, the more knowledge transforms into power. And it's that power—the power of one voice—that gets individuals the help they need.

Find more information on the White House 2016 Making Health Care Better report here.



JUL, 08, 2016 09:10:29 AM
When my son began to display psychotic symptoms in 2012, I found out very quickly we were on our own. How swiftly the system had come undone since my sister was hospitalized for six months due to schizophrenia in 1989. Now we could not even begin to find in-patient treatment for the extended time necessary to observe and diagnose and treat this serious condition effectively. The hotlines all told me the same thing: "If he's not a threat to himself or others..." It took years to get him into any kind of treatment, important time wasted as this illness has better outcomes with immediate attention. He deteriorated before our eyes. Our hands were tied by the ill-conceived legislation, and our fear and heartache for him were real. He is now in jail, awaiting trial for a murder he doesn't even remember. But the facts won't matter in the long run. No doubt he will be found guilty and made to suffer the rest of his life for an illness his family was prevented by law from intervention. Unless you've been through it, you can't understand the meaning 'Hell on Earth'.

JUL, 04, 2016 08:48:30 PM
Lois Irene Damron
I have been a member of NAMI since 2003. My son who is duo diag H as been in jail and prison I ff and on since 2091 He is sitting in jail. Why are we not spending money on housing and treatment for duo diag. . I have even reached out to Treatment Advocacy as well. I have donated and served. .I am tired and so is my son. Money I S going for Prison and they will not get help especially trauma

JUL, 02, 2016 10:42:58 PM
Mari L., NAMI Greater Houston Board Vice President
For the past 8 years, since my son's (my beloved only child) near fatal psychotic break, I have gladly given NAMI (Westside L.A. & Greater Houston) my talents, money, dedication, and love. Why have my husband and I done this? A simple reason: NAMI not only saved our lives but gave us the tools to help our precious son. As long as I am physically and mentally able to do so.I will pay it forward.....

JUL, 01, 2016 12:59:26 PM
NAMI has helped my husband and I understand what is going on with our son but he refuses to admit he is bipolar. He has been in two facilities and no one can or will help him. My son will take depakote but not the anti psychotic drug they want him to take so they just sent him back to jail. He has been arrested 3 times for disorderly conduct. Last dr was going to do a 90 day hold but with my son refusing help he the dr just gave up. But who in a manic state admits they need help? Our mental health systems is in need of help. We have been dealing with this for 8 yrs. our son is college graduate had a great job, when he broke up with his girlfriend is when his bipolar episodes started. It follows baseball season manic in May to August depressed sept to Jan and able to hold a job from feb to April then looses it to mania. We need help but until he wants help I guess we are just praying he isn't killed or jailed for life.

JUN, 25, 2016 12:08:21 PM
This is a good step. I would like to add that many, many decisions....not just funding come in at the county and state levels. This is where much of the brute injustice lays for victims, families and consumers. Funding is in the lowest 40 states in many of these stats as well as AZ, NM and upper midwest states. Chapters are also weak in these states. Want to prove this???Call their Office for verification of when and where they meet.

JUN, 22, 2016 01:26:01 PM
Pat Constant
NAMI is not what it was created to be. It was started to call attention and seek answers to the most severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia. The current NAMI is not a grass roots organization and does not reflect the intent of its founders. It uses the term mental health when it should be focused on mental illness. It caters to less severe problems (as important as they may be) and abandons those souls suffering with severe illnesses. Shame on NAMI leaders.

JUN, 18, 2016 11:37:35 AM
Tim Wenburg
I've been to only one NAMI meeting because they stopped for the summer and then I lost. my ability to even get to one. It's always something.

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