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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has, like other organizations, had to contend with a lot regarding COVID-19 and the delivery of its educational programming, according to its CEO. “People fail to realize that we have an epidemic within the pandemic,” Daniel H. Gillison Jr. told MHW. A “ripple of mental health issues” has been exacerbated. Racial trauma and economic issues have created fear and uncertainty, he said. One goal next year will be to increase the number of NAMI volunteers and expand its hours, possibly to 8 p.m., he said. NAMI's annual conference, NAMICon 2020, also went virtual. The organization successfully dealt with bandwidth challenges. “The upside is we had 12,000 participants with representation from the domestic U.S. and 31 countries,” he said. In the past, participants usually numbered from 1,400 to 1,600, Gillison said. Gillison indicated that COVID-19 saw more people being open and discussing mental health. “It helped to create a safe space for many,” he said. “You've seen all sectors — private, not-for-profit, entertainment, athletes, political — having a lot more conversation about the importance of mental health. The isolation has created that conversation.”
Angela Kimball, national director of advocacy and public policy at NAMI discusses that people are starting to rethink a police response to mental health crises. “We took the concept of defunding police to really be more about investing in community resources that really works to divert people from law enforcement involvement so talking about things like crisis hotlines and mobile crisis response,” said Kimball.
Young and old alike the holidays can often make mental health problems way a bit heavier. Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO at NAMI provides some tips to help cope. The holidays as a rule can often be a time where a lot of people deal with isolation, anxiety, depression and now throw in a pandemic and this is a different year is a not a hearing about more people coming for services like the ones provided at NAMI this year. “The holidays are often a difficult time for people. this is the classic cognitive problem of Madison avenue you presents you with happy multi-generational families who all are apparently from the same political party,” said Duckworth. “That's not everyone's experience and for mental health has never been greater and this is one of the challenges that we face is, you know are there enough providers to see everybody it's hard to find a therapist right now.”
Call the NAMI Helpline at
text "NAMI" to 741741