May 25, 2013

Individuals living with a mental illness need to talk with someone who understands—someone who has been in the same situation they are in, someone who can give them hope and inspiration for their recovery. The NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups provide that resource for individuals to connect with in their community, but what about individuals who are in severe crisis and have been hospitalized? This is the situation where they desperately need someone to talk to and bridge the gap to recovery.

With the help of our NAMI Connection Coordinator, Dirk Nakazawa, NAMI Vermont has opened doors to begin the healing process in the psychiatric unit at Rutland Regional Medical Center. “In my experience many people living with mental illness are too afraid or intimidated to leave the comfort of their home and walk into a room full of strangers to find support,” Nakazawa said. “What we have been finding since starting about four months ago is that many of the people who end up on the psychiatric unit really lack supportive people who truly understand what they are going through. We hope that when they leave the hospital the chances that they might seek out a support group to attend in order to find people who truly understand them would increase.”

By providing a NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group at the psychiatric unit in one of our community hospitals, it helps participants understand about a valuable resource waiting for them once they are released and can feel comfortable to attend a meeting in their local community. The meetings are flexible so that patients on the unit can come and go as they need to. Hospital staff sit in on meetings and find that many patients open up and discuss their feelings quite freely with the trained NAMI Vermont facilitators who help to problem solve and guide the discussion to a positive outcome.

“We are extremely pleased to have been able to partner with NAMI Vermont in developing this much needed resource on our inpatient psychiatric unit. Participating in the NAMI group while on the inpatient unit provides patients with a connection to the community resources which exists upon discharge providing smoother transition to the outpatient setting. The impact of this group is best described by one of the participants who said, ‘The NAMI group was awesome!’ when asked for feedback upon discharge,” said Dr. Gordon Frankle, Chief of Psychiatry for Rutland Regional Medical Center.

NAMI Vermont has formed a close partnership with Rutland Regional Medical Center who provides space for our NAMI Family-to-Family classes, Family Support Groups, and Provider Education courses. Now we have started a NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group at their psychiatric unit, one of the first in the nation.

I am so proud of our NAMI Connection facilitators, Dirk Nakazawa, David Remington, and Darlene Manning who have made such an impact on people’s lives in their recovery process. They are truly making a difference in Vermont through their dedication and commitment by leading through example and giving people courage and hope for their future. We hope to replicate this same process at other psychiatric units throughout the state.

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