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Call the NAMI Helpline at
Or in a crisis, text "NAMI" to 741741
Amid a nationwide movement for racial justice and police reform sparked by the recent killings of several Black men and women, many people have spoken out against police shootings of people experiencing mental health crises. "A person shouldn't lose their life because they’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition," said Angela Kimball, national director of advocacy and public policy at NAMI. "People deserve help, not handcuffs." Nearly 15% of men and 30% of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates. The CAHOOTS program in Eugene, OR now responds to a range of mental health related crises and relies on techniques that are focused on harm reduction. "The idea there is to assume that the vast majority of crisis calls really aren't going to need law enforcement involvement, and more and more locations are starting to explore that model," Kimball said. "We're thinking that that is really the future of crisis response, focused on behavioral health with law enforcement support only when needed." Big change is also on the horizon for July 2022, Kimball said. That's when the 988 national mental health hotline goes live. "The intent is that 988 would eventually be able to dispatch and connect with a range of crisis response services – mobile crisis teams, crisis stabilization programs," Kimball said. "However, that infrastructure is highly localized, so whatever might be available in one state may be very different."
“NAMI was founded by parents of adult children with schizophrenia over 40 years ago and we’re proud to be a part of the of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership for Schizophrenia, a watershed moment in our field,” said Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI. “This partnership is a new opportunity for coordinated research on the root causes and progression of schizophrenia, a complex, long-term medical illness. NAMI is dedicated to this partnership which represents the best of the public, private and academic communities. We can all agree that we need better treatments for psychosis and this partnership has the potential to fast-track progress in this area.”
Covid-19 has left lots of people feeling anxious and depressed. But it’s hard to untangle whether this is a normal response to a difficult situation or actual pathology. According to survey results released by the CDC on August 14, 30% of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, versus 11% during the same time period in 2019. Dawn Brown, director of community engagement at NAMI, which runs the free NAMI HelpLine for people seeking support and information, writes that, between March and July, they’ve seen a 65% increase in calls. Some callers have preexisting mental health conditions and reached out because of concerns about accessing medication or treatment during a pandemic, she writes; others did not have anxiety or depression diagnoses but were beginning to experience symptoms.
New York Attorney General Letitia James will empanel a grand jury as part of the investigation into Daniel Prude's death. James' announcement comes as the city has been rocked by protests for four nights, with protesters demanding more accountability from law enforcement and legislation to change how authorities respond to mental health emergencies. Advocates for such legislation say Prude's death and the actions of seven now-suspended Rochester police officers demonstrate how police are ill-equipped to deal with people suffering mental problems. Having police respond can be a "recipe for disaster," The National Alliance on Mental Illness said in a statement Friday. Prude's death "is yet another harrowing tragedy, but a story not unfamiliar to us," the advocacy group said. "People in crisis deserve help, not handcuffs."
With school re-openings in full swing (or not), there’s a lot of uncertainty for high school and college students about what this next year will look like. Some students have returned to their campuses, only to be told their classes will be held online. Jennifer Rothman, senior manager of youth and young adult initiatives at NAMI, notes that the NAMI helpline has seen a significant increase in calls over the last few months. “We’re hearing more calls about anxiety, a lot of stress and depression,” she says. “What families really want to look for is changes in behaviors, changes in personality,” Rothman says. “If your child isn’t talking to you as much anymore, or spending a lot time by themselves,” that’s a red flag, especially if they’re not taking time to connect with their friends virtually. You may also see a decrease in motivation, Rothman notes, especially without the routine of in-person schooling. If your student is having a hard time getting out of bed, if they’re sleeping too little, or if their appetite has changed, this may denote mental stress.
Early this year, Kenneth Cole started the Mental Health Coalition and joined forces with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to help shift the narrative and preconceived perspectives. Together, the organizations want people to know that they’re not alone in their struggle with mental illness. They are encouraging everyone to vocalize their battles and seek assistance. Daniel Gillison, CEO of NAMI, told BlackPressUSA that lifting the stigma surrounding mental illness, particularly in the African American community, is as relevant now than ever. “Especially during this time of isolation, uncertainty, and tragedy, it is vital that no one feels alone in their mental health journey,” Gillison said. “The COVID-19 crisis shines a spotlight on our need for social connectedness and our need for real mental health resources. we need to raise awareness to change our fragmented mental health system into one that serves everyone, so people can get the care they need.” Gillison said COVID-19, social unrest, job loss and business closures are all forces that have come together to create more trauma in the African American community.
As campuses reopen, students stuck at home or in dorm rooms should take close care of themselves. As about 20 million college students prepare to either return to school or take courses remotely, they’re not only facing the risk of infection with coronavirus, but also a mental health crisis. Whether it’s counseling, therapy, or psychiatric help, most colleges offer a wide slate of telehealth options for free. Any student can, and should, jump on these opportunities. Jennifer Rothman, senior manager of youth and young adult initiatives at NAMI, also urges faculty and staff to learn about their college’s mental health resources so that they can clue students in when needed. Staying in the loop with your college community is more essential than ever, especially for students living in home environments that aren’t safe or positive. “Purposefully plan Zoom dates, online trivia nights, and Netflix Party movie nights, and have fun with your friends virtually,” Rothman says.
Call the NAMI Helpline at
text "NAMI" to 741741