INDIANAPOLIS – The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) held their state conference in Indianapolis earlier this month, where serious mental illness and associated substance abuse disorders were the main focus.
Dr. Douglas Noordsy was the keynote speaker, with a presentation about available treatments for people with psychotic and substance use disorders. Various learning sessions were available throughout the day, including wellness recovery plans, advocacy for the mental health of children, crisis intervention training and supportive relations.
There were also “Ask the Doctor” sessions, which covered schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood disorders and brain disorders in children. These sessions were conducted by faculty members from the Department of Psychiatry at the Indiana School of Medicine.
During the conference, the South Central Indiana NAMI chapter was honored for their work in through the year. Linda Ricke, president of the South Central Indiana NAMI chapter, said there are currently 40 members in the chapter, though only 18 are active members. Ricke said they meet on the first Tuesday of every month at First Christian Church in Columbus.
South Central NAMI has been meeting since 1985, doing what they can to help others navigate through the often-invisible minefield that is mental illness. They serve a five county area, offering their aid in Decatur, Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, and Jennings counties.
The main services provided by the South Central Indiana NAMI chapter are providing mental support for families, educating the public about mental illnesses, advocating for the mentally ill and service to the community. At the recent state conference, the South Central Indiana chapter was honored at the NAMI Indiana Affiliate of the Year for 2013. The award was for the special projects the chapter completed that support the shared goals of the organization.
So far this year, in addition to their regular activities, the South Central Indiana chapter has attended three health fairs to distribute information about mental illness to anyone seeking information. Ricke said she and the other chapter members have been able to help a lot of people who didn’t know where to go or where to turn.
Ricke said the chapter’s monthly meetings usually last an hour and a half and often consist of families speaking about what brought them there or why they joined NAMI. The local NAMI chapter is able to connect people with community mental health care. They also stress the importance of medication and taking it as directed.
Many people feel they are not at risk for mental illness. However, the reality is that no one is safe. One in five families will be affected by some form of mental illness in their lifetime, according to Ricke. While some are able to recover well enough to have a functional life, others may not be so fortunate.
According to the NAMI website, one in four adults in this country, which equates to about 61.5 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year. The website continues to state that approximately 20 percent of youths between the ages of 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. It is estimated that 13 percent of children from ages 8 to 15 suffer from mental issues. Many of these mental illnesses go untreated, which often causes the underlying problem to worsen.
Ricke said there are likely a lot more people suffering from depression and other mental illnesses than are currently estimated.
“Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, people would talk about a strange aunt or uncle. That person likely had a mental illness that no one knew about,” Ricke said.
The impact of mental illness is seen everywhere. According to information publicized by NAMI, America loses $193.2 billion each year in lost earnings due to serious mental illness. Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of developing chronic medical conditions. In addition, adults living with serious mental illness die an average of 25 years earlier than those without mental illness, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
The members of the South Central Indiana NAMI chapter invite anyone who may be experiencing some form or mental illness, or anyone who believes a family member is suffering, to contact the local NAMI chapter for more information and assistance.
Above all, South Central Indiana NAMI wishes to let all those who are struggling to deal with mental illness, directly or indirectly, that they are not alone. Help is available, as is someone to listen with sympathy and without judgment. Mental illnesses are treatable and most see improvement of varying degrees with continued treatment.
For more information about mental illness or to get involved with South Central Indiana NAMI, please call 812-663-6370 or 812-376-0020.
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004