Press Releases

NAMI Combats Stigma with Science

Advocates Concentrate On Severe Mental Illness During Brain Awareness Week

Mar 03 1997

Washington, D.C. - Open your mind and flex those synapses. Test your knowledge about mental illnesses.

1. Severe mental illnesses are caused by: a. bad parenting b. a physical problem in the brain c. hitting your head against a wall d. drug abuse 2. Which brain structures are known to be involved in severe mental illnesses: a. Hypothalamus b. Frontal Cortex c. Hippocampus d. Temporal Cortex e. Hippopotamus 3. All but one of these are brain disorders: a. depression b. nervous breakdown c. schizophrenia d. obsessive-compulsive disorder 4. The medical term for split personality is schizophrenia: True or False? 5. Which of the diseases below are less common than severe mental illness: a. cancer b. diabetes c. heart disease

Answers and additional questions found at end of release.


If you had trouble answering these questions, you are not alone. Most people do. Brain researchers have learned more about the workings of the brain in the past decade than they have in the previous century. Imaging techniques such as PET (positron emission tomography) are allowing scientists to study the living brain, and to understand how the brain works. These advances have helped researchers discover that mental illnesses are medical conditions, just like diabetes and heart disease.

"One of our strongest weapons against discrimination is science," says Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "The good news is treatment works. With each new finding, scientists are one step closer to providing better medical solutions to people suffering from brain disorders."


Unfortunately, each year five million Americans experience mental illness. But many people do not realize the toll that these and other brain disorders take on society. Brain disorders account for more disability than any other disease. Brain research has made extraordinary progress by discovering the roots of these disabling conditions. Science is beginning to shatter the stigma of mental illness. Yet, only the tip of the iceberg has been seen.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is a proud partner of Brain Awareness Week, March 17th - 23rd, 1997, founded by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. During the week, a host of events will be held throughout the country: scientists will open their laboratories to the public, researchers will present symposia, museums will hold exhibits, and the Dana Alliance's radio program, Gray Matters will air a one-hour program, Drugs on the Brain, over public radio stations.

During Brain Awareness Week, NAMI launches its Science and Treatment Kit which explores the science behind the causes and treatments of brain disorders. NAMI members will educate legislators, civic and business leaders, and the media about the scientific basics of these disorders. NAMI is also introducing a video featuring Dr. Steve Hyman, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and other NIMH scientists examining the physical origins of brain disorders and new advances in treatment.

To learn more about severe mental illnesses or learn about support groups in your area, please call 1-800- 950-NAMI (6264) or visit our web site at

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and anxiety disorders. NAMI's membership includes more than 140,000 people with brain disorders and their families, and 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. NAMI's efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for nondiscriminatory and equitable federal and state policies; research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma toward severe mental illnesses.


6) Mental illnesses profoundly disrupt a person's ability to (circle all that apply): a. think b. feel c. relate to others and their environment d. have a high IQ 7) In any given year, about ____ Americans, suffer from a severe form of mental illness: a. 100,000 b. 500,000 c. 1 million d. 3 million e. 5 million 8) One in ____ families in the United States are affected by severe mental illness in their lifetime: a. 20 families b. 15 families c. 10 families d. 5 families 9) Who of the following people suffered from a severe mental illness: a. Abraham Lincoln b. Beethoven c. Van Gogh d. Isaac Newton e. Winston Churchill f. Michelangelo 10) What percentage of the homeless have a severe mental illness: a. 5% b. 10% c. 25% d. 33% e. 50% 11) How many people living with severe mental illnesses seek treatment: a. 10% b. 30% c. 60% d. 90% e. 100% 12) Insurance companies must legally provide equal coverage of medical treatment for the brain as they do for the heart. True or false? 13) Recent studies indicate genetic links to brain disorders. True or false? 14) Heart disease has a 45 to 50 percent treatment success rate. Which of the following do you believe to be true: a. The success rate for treating schizophrenia is 60 percent. b. The success rate for treating bi-polar disorder is 80 to 90 percent. c. The success rate for treating panic disorder is 70 to 90 percent. d. The success rate for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder is 75 percent. e. The success rate for treating depression is 70 to 80 percent. 15) In 1990 the total direct cost of treating a person with severe diabetes was $7,725. Which of the following do you believe to be true: a. In 1990, the total direct cost of treating a person with schizophrenia was higher than treating diabetes. b. In 1990, the total direct cost of treating a person with schizophrenia was lower than treating diabetes. c. In 1990, the total direct cost of treating a person with schizophrenia was the same as treating diabetes.

Answers: 1. b; 2. a,b,c,d; 3. b; 4. false 5. each disease is less common 6. a,b,c; 7. e; 8. d; 9. all of them; 10. d; 11. c; 12. false; 13. true; 14. all of them; 15. b.