Hold onto the Hope: NAMI National Convention

July 7, 2011 Randye Kaye

"Hold onto the hope and keep moving forward."
Those are the closing words I remember from the last speaker this morning at the NAMI National Convention's education session. All of us in the standing-room-only ballroom were there to honor the various education and support programs that NAMI offers. Consumers, providers, family members and NAMI staffers were invited to offer their stories, and tell how programs like Family-to-Family, NAMI Basics (for families with younger children), In Our Own Voice, Peer-to-Peer and more affected our journeys.

Wow. How we all need education. How we all need each other. naminational2What a roomful of experience, knowledge, and hard-earned wisdom.

Last night there was a special session with Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), about all the new research that shows some promise - especially if it is funded and respected. Mental Illness is a tough sell, unfortunately - but it should not be.

Dr. Insel's talk was eye-opening, honest, hopeful and also a reinforcement of many issues we all blog about here:
1.mental illness is the leading cause of diability in the United States
2.proposed or planned budget cuts to state funding and Medicaid are frightening.
3.there is not enough attention paid to finding proper medical treatment for mental illness
4."Person-Centered Treatment" is essential

One idea he presented is the need for "staging" mental illness the way we divide cancers into "Stages". Yes. He reminded us that usually mental illness is not even diagnosed until psychosis, which is equivalent to "Stage 3" in cancer. It's like waiting for the heart attack to diagnose a clogged artery. If medical and research attention is paid, as has happened with cancer and heart disease, to the earlier "stages", then prevention is possible and can save heartache, crises, and lives.

The three main points Dr. Insel shared, that must be accepted to further researh and reduce stigma:
1. Mental disorders are brain disorders
2. Mental disorders are developmental disorders
3. Mental disorders result from complex genetic risk plus experiential factors.
Where is the research hope: The Human Connectome (mapping brain connections), stem cell research (with exciting new discoveries making it possible without the controversy of involving a fetus), and new emphasis on how mental illnesses develop before psychosis, with possibility of video game "brain retraining" to help before meds are needed.

At conventions like this, there is so much new information to absorb that it can be overwhelming. Some new knowledge comes in the meeting rooms, some of it from random conversations in between the "classes" - in the hallways, in the ladies' room, at the snack table. Last night was an eye-opener, and there will be more to share.
Hold onto the hope, indeed...and keep moving forward. But with new respect, collaberation, research, and - in the meantime and always - "person-centered treatment."

APA Reference
Kaye, R. (2011, July 7). Hold onto the Hope: NAMI National Convention, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Randye Kaye

Dr Musli Ferati
June, 2 2012 at 8:02 pm

Against the fact that mental illnesses exhibits an horrible medico-social problem, it remain many misunderstanding and misconception on world-outlooks in public, in worldwide dimension. By me, the main reason for this obscure reflection about mental disorders underlies in complex biopsychosocial constellation of them. As long as the medicocentric approach continues to dominate in their treatment and management, the issue would continue discern the whole community. It is fatal mistake that any mental disorder indicates the difficulty only for respective mental ill person and its close relatives. Mental illness infects everybody in any time and place, its strength debilitates the family, its parameters, on the other side, swallows up all the world. The problem is our sinister attitude on real nature of mental health and mediaeval preconceived notion on mental disorders.

Jeannie Stuckey
July, 12 2011 at 3:47 pm

Yes, this was so good! Dr. Insel was the first speaker I heard on arriving at the convention, and it only whetted my appetite for all that was to come. Another great presentation was that of Dr. Amador. WOW! Wish we could clone each of them, and bring them to our churches, schools and mental health and judicial centers!

Leave a reply