In The News

Mental health services for Latinos are in low supply, higher demand due to COVID-19
Posted on Oct 23 2020

For years, Latinos have faced challenges in obtaining culturally competent mental health care. And the need is only growing during the pandemic, as practitioners across the country receive more referrals from patients within the Latinx community. Only 5.5% of psychologists can provide services in Spanish, according to a 2015 APA survey, and U.S. Census data shows only 7% of psychologists identify as Hispanic. Mónica Villalta, the national director of inclusion and diversity at NAMI, is well aware of this void in mental health services. “When you add the added layer that those services are costly, that the system is complicated, and that many of the individuals in our community do not have insurance to begin with,” she said, “prior to 2020 we were already in a sort of a crisis.” That crisis, Villalta and other mental health professionals across the country say, is amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic as Latinos are disproportionately impacted by the virus and cope with the trauma, stress and anxiety that comes with family deaths, illness, economic uncertainty, and social isolation. According to CDC data, Latinos comprise nearly 30% of the country’s COVID-19 cases, yet make up 18% of the U.S. population.

Mental Health Resources for Black Americans
Posted on Oct 21 2020
Everyday Health

Systemic racism and hostile racial environments are nothing new in the United States, but 2020 has marked a significant milestone in awareness and lack of tolerance for it. Ironically, while this upheaval signals the potential for change, it has also put a strain on the mental health of many Black Americans, whose stress may be increased by media reports of violence and police brutality. “Racism is a public health crisis,” says Daniel H. Gillison Jr., CEO of NAMI. In fact, a growing body of research shows that experiencing racism increases the risk for anxiety, ulcers, insomnia, mood swings, and emotional and social withdrawal. Even in cases in which Black Americans are resilient, have support, and practice self-care, overcoming stress rooted in systemic and constant discrimination remains a challenge. The article provides a list of organizations offering help.

Insurer finds workplace disconnect on mental health
Posted on Oct 20 2020
Hartford Business Journal: CT

As a manager you might think that your workplace is a safe space to discuss and get help for mental health issues, but your reports likely disagree, according to new data from local insurance giant The Hartford. A majority of employers (68%) said they’d created “an open and inclusive work environment” in regards to mental health, but only 42% of workers agreed, a recent survey by the insurer found. The survey was announced as part of a new alliance between The Hartford and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a leading nonprofit. The two plan to work together to reduce the stigma around mental health issues in the workplace and get those in search of support the help they need. “Especially during these difficult times, treatment can make a positive impact on anyone struggling with their mental health,” said Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI. “We call on fellow business leaders to join us in creating a new standard for employee benefits that include mental health resources which not only improve the lives of employees, but also the overall success of the company.”

By next July, you can call 988 in a mental health crisis
Posted on Oct 19 2020
The Hill: Changing America

President Trump signed the Suicide Designation Act of 2020 into law on Saturday, designating 988 as the dial code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Founded in 2004, the network of 161 crisis centers is backed by the federal government and provides a toll-free number for anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The law also allows states to enact fees to offer these expanded services, in the same way they currently do for 911. “The need for 9-8-8 is urgent. Without appropriate care, people with mental illness end up on our streets, in jails and in emergency departments — and dying in tragic encounters with law enforcement,” said Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., NAMI CEO, in a statement. “By signing this bill into law, we are making real progress toward ensuring people in crisis get help, not handcuffs. We are grateful to Congress and the FCC for their efforts in moving this legislation forward and making 9-8-8 a reality.” The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the health care system and made it difficult for many Americans to access vital mental health services.

KIND, NAMI: How More Doctors Can Get Mental Health Support, Change Medical Licensing
Posted on Oct 19 2020
NAMI mentioned

Make sure that you get some mental health support if you need it. Oh, by the way, doing so may mess up your career. After all, over the years, relatively little has been done to alleviate one of the big barriers to doctors seeking mental health services: career and licensure concerns. But recently, KIND Healthy Snacks and the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) have launched an effort to change such situations. They’ve started petitions on for medical boards in five states (Florida, Wyoming, Alabama, Oklahoma and Idaho) to stop asking overly-intrusive mental health questions on their medical license applications. In this way, KIND and NAMI are asking medical boards to be kinder to physicians, so to speak.

Covid-19 pandemic takes added toll on those with mental illness: 'We're suffering some real stuff'
Posted on Oct 12 2020
CNN Health

The Covid-19 pandemic has been somewhat unique in that the crisis has continued for an extended period. Such moments of uncertainty can take a significant toll on those already facing mental health challenges. "Any loss of social support can have a meaningful impact on people with mental illness," said Katherine Ponte, founder of the online peer support community ForLikeMinds and lives with bipolar 1 disorder (NAMI Blog writer and NAMI-NYC Board member). During the last week of March, Ponte and researchers at Yale University School of Medicine conducted an online survey that included 193 people who self-identified as living with a mental illness. The survey, published in Psychiatric Services, found that most of those living with a mental illness (98%) said they had at least one major concern related to the Covid-19 pandemic. "I definitely feared that my mental illness would get worse," she said. "In the past, my manic episodes have been triggered by world tragedies." Ponte also emphasized that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In response to trauma, some people can experience what is called "tragic optimism," which occurs when someone remains hopeful and builds resilience. These responses can culminate in what is referred to as post-traumatic growth. Ponte said that her hope for the nation is growth after trauma.

These mental health crises ended in fatal police encounters. Now, some communities are trying a new approach (CW: Violence and Death)
Posted on Oct 10 2020

While police departments have come under heightened scrutiny in recent months amid a racial reckoning stemming from fatal encounters with Black Americans, so have their actions in mental health emergencies. Experts and communities across the US are taking a hard look at whether law enforcement should be the first line of response. "The short answer to that is no," says Shannon Scully, senior manager of criminal justice policy at NAMI. "The law enforcement field is not equipped, nor should it ever be the first responder to a mental health crisis." But with other mental health resources vastly underfunded or non-existent in many parts of the country, police departments have taken on the task by preparing patrol officers for these emergencies with the help of mental health training. "But NAMI remains concerned about any model that inherently relies on law enforcement involvement in responses to mental health emergencies," Scully told CNN. "The solution here is really looking at the mental health services and support centers in the community and then how law enforcement plays really kind of a secondary, supportive role," she says. And there likely won't be a one-size-fits-all approach for every community.

Biden’s spotlight on son’s addiction earns praise from advocates
Posted on Sep 30 2020

The presidential debate was dominated by chaos and crosstalk. But one moment of empathy broke through the muddle for some people watching: a spotlight Biden put on his son Hunter’s struggle with addiction. Coping with mental illness and substance addiction is widespread, and often invisible. One in five Americans deal with mental health issues in any given year, and, according to data from the American Addiction Centers, the two struggles often co-occur. Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI told Yahoo News that since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, his group’s helpline has seen a 65% increase in calls and emails from people looking for help. “While NAMI cannot comment on specific candidates, we know that discussing substance use and mental health conditions openly on such a national stage helps to get people talking about these issues and ultimately helps people feel more empowered to get the help they need,” Gillison wrote. “As a result of this collective crisis, more people are discussing their mental health challenges and vulnerabilities openly which helps normalize these conversations and destigmatizes mental health concerns.”

Rochester Hospital Released Daniel Prude Hours Before Fatal Encounter With Police (CW: Suicide and Violence)
Posted on Sep 29 2020

Daniel Prude’s family knew he needed psychiatric care and tried to get it for him. When Joe Prude called the police to report his brother missing, he was struggling to understand why Daniel Prude had been released from the hospital hours earlier. Less attention has been paid to what happened to Daniel Prude in the preceding hours, when he was treated and released after a psychiatric assessment at Strong Memorial Hospital. Medical decisions in a case like Daniel Prude's are high-stakes, with little margin for error, says Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI. "Emergency psychiatric assessment is very challenging, and the potential for catastrophic outcomes following your decision is very real," he says. Prude's case is unusual because the consequences of doctors' decision to release him have played out so publicly, says NAMI's Duckworth. "You make a very big decision, which usually has no known outcome. You put this person in the hospital, you go on to the next patient. You send this person home, you go on to the next patient," he explains. Duckworth adds that he would not second-guess the actions of Prude's hospital team in the moment, but with the benefit of hindsight, "there's overwhelming evidence that he had a psychotic illness and was quite vulnerable," he says. "He didn't need to die."

Police have shot people experiencing a mental health crisis. Who should you call instead?
Posted on Sep 18 2020
USA Today
NAMI mentioned

Amid a nationwide movement for racial justice and police reform sparked by the recent killings of several Black men and women, many people have spoken out against police shootings of people experiencing mental health crises. "A person shouldn't lose their life because they’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition," said Angela Kimball, national director of advocacy and public policy at NAMI. "People deserve help, not handcuffs." Nearly 15% of men and 30% of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates. The CAHOOTS program in Eugene, OR now responds to a range of mental health related crises and relies on techniques that are focused on harm reduction. "The idea there is to assume that the vast majority of crisis calls really aren't going to need law enforcement involvement, and more and more locations are starting to explore that model," Kimball said. "We're thinking that that is really the future of crisis response, focused on behavioral health with law enforcement support only when needed." Big change is also on the horizon for July 2022, Kimball said. That's when the 988 national mental health hotline goes live. "The intent is that 988 would eventually be able to dispatch and connect with a range of crisis response services – mobile crisis teams, crisis stabilization programs," Kimball said. "However, that infrastructure is highly localized, so whatever might be available in one state may be very different."