Did you know that mental illness affects 1 in 4 people or nearly 60 million Americans every year? That means that mental illness affects you. It means that if you haven’t struggled with a mental illness yourself, there is likely someone you love who has or still is.
It means that mental illness deserves some attention. Attention for normality, education, recovery, advocacy, and support. If it doesn’t get more attention from all of us, there will likely be more needless deaths, suicides, violence, school shootings, abuse, substance abuse, etc.
So instead of slapping more band aids on people and communities affected by the aftermath of untreated mental illness, why not be proactive?
Last weekend, my husband (who is a mental health counselor) and I attended a 2-day training provided by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This free training gave us the certification to co-facilitate NAMI support groups for peers and families affected by mental illness. We plan to run groups in our area, on a volunteer basis, for those needing help from others who understand what they’re going through.
NAMI is an organization you want to know about because they are leading the way in supporting mental health needs. Each state has a NAMI organization which offers lots of FREE services, including:
- Peer and family support groups
- Advocacy for public policy to fight stigma and to help the mentally ill get proper treatment
- A non-crisis hotline for anyone needing someone to listen, answer questions about mental illness, or guidance through the tedious process of getting treatment
- Respite services for families needing self-care time
- Parent and family classes to educate families about mental illness and how it might affect them and their loved ones
- Resources on specific mental illnesses, state and federal laws that affect mental health, suicide awareness and prevention, veteran support services, and more
Because most of their services are free (seriously, how awesome is that?!), NAMI encourages people to become members to help support their important work. When they have more members, they can pack a lot more punch when they stand up for policies and legislation that will help our communities heal. Membership is only $3 for open door or $35 for individual/family (basically, it’s what you can afford to pay), and it gives you access to your state and national NAMI organization.
For School Counselors, it is vital that we have some understanding of mental illness, as we are often involved in the early stages of identifying and referring for treatment. It’s so important that we can spot the difference between a child simply having a difficult time, and a child who may be struggling with mental illness and in need of much more support than we can provide in the school setting. I don’t think I even need to write about the lasting damages of untreated mental illness…I’ll just say that if we can avoid causing this kind of harm, we should.
So, when you compile your resources list, please add NAMI. They have a lot to offer.
National site: http://www.nami.org/
State of Maine site: http://www.namimaine.org/index.php