NAMI Convention Speakers Warn: Mental Illness Increasing, Services Worsening

Keynote Speeches Come On Eve Of "Listening Session" By Presidential Commission Chairman And SAMHSA Head

Jun 27 2002

Cincinnati, OH - Keynote speakers at the opening plenary session of the 23rd annual convention of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today warned that the nation's mental health treatment system is in severe crisis-just one day before Charles Curie, head of the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Michael Hogan, chairman of President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health and director of Ohio's Department of Mental Health, are scheduled to speak and hear concerns from more than 2,000 consumer and family advocates.

E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., one of the nation's leading researchers on schizophrenia and author of the recently-published book, The Invisible Plague: The Rise of Insanity from 1750 to the Present, said: "The good news is that science is better off now than 20 years ago, but the bad news is that services are worse off."

"The good news is that we know how to treat mental illness, but the bad news is that we are not doing it. Approximately 50% of people with severe mental illnesses are not receiving treatment," he said. "It is likely that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are increasing in incidence"-by a rate of "at least 7-fold" as a rate per population over 150 years-"and nobody is paying attention."

David Mechanic, Ph.D. of the Institute for Health at Rutgers University echoed the need for "much greater personal attention to specific services," including "stable housing as a basis for recovery." He said that "'respect and dignity' and treating people 'in an individualistic, humanistic way' are critical to psychiatric rehabilitation, along with teaching coping skills and providing necessary social supports."

Three panelists commented on the opening addresses: William Lawson, M.D., chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Howard University; Suzanne Vogel-Scibilia, M.D., a member of NAMI's national board from Pennsylvania; and Xavier Amador, Ph.D., director of NAMI's Center for Research, Education & Practice.