Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Joy Clark
National Alliance on Mental Illness 

It's time to dismantle the stigma about mental illness


The words to Bob Dylan’s song “The times they are a-changin’” could not be more appropriate for today. October is Mental Health Awareness Month, and for the first time in 13 years the White House held a conference on mental health. An entire nation is now speaking about mental health issues. The fact is one out of four Americans suffers from some form of mental illness that covers a broad spectrum of brain disorders. Depression, as an example, the oldest known malady to man, affects millions; yet, stigma around mental illness persists, rooted in centuries old misconceptions and beliefs.

The statistics in the Jewish community parallel these numbers. There are many among us that suffer from panic attacks, depression, mood disorders, PTSD, and more. It is time that we as a community reach out to those who are suffering silently and let them know that they are not alone. The Jewish community of Greater Kansas City has recently formed a Mental Health Coalition and has launched an anti-stigma campaign. The Orlando community can do something similar. We need to visit this in the future, but right now we need to let our community know about the wonderful resources that already are available to us. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Orlando (NAMI), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education, support and resources to individuals affected with severe mental illness, their families and caretakers, will be sponsoring weeklong events from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12.  A calendar of activities is available online at http://www.namigo.org or call 407-253-1900.  For further information, email communications@namigo.org. 

Faithnet, a network of NAMI promoting the role of faith in the recovery from mental illness, will be offering an event to start off the week. More information on Faithnet is available online at www.NAMI.org/Faithnet.

With the remaining 2013 classes already underway, in early 2014, NAMI Greater Orlando will resume offering its educational curriculum, including NAMI Family-to-Family, a free, 12-week education course designed to foster learning, healing and empowerment among families, friends and caregivers of individuals with mental illness. Course elements include: coping skills; handling periods of crisis and relapse; up-to-date information on medications; guidance on locating appropriate resources; and caring for the caregiver. The course is for family members and caregivers of individuals with serious mental illness, and is taught by NAMI-trained family members who have personal experience. NAMI Greater Orlando has two Jewish facilitators who both believe that the class helped them immensely in learning about and developing new coping skills for dealing with mental illness in their families.

Additionally, NAMI offers Peer-to-Peer, a unique, experiential learning program for people with any serious mental illness who are interested in establishing and maintaining their wellness and recovery. Peer-to-Peer consists of 10 two-hour units and is taught by two trained “mentors” and a volunteer support person who are personally experienced at living well with mental illness. Participants come away from the course with a binder of hand-out materials, as well as many other tangible resources: an advance directive; a “relapse prevention plan” to help identify tell-tale feelings, thoughts, behavior, or events that may warn of impending relapse and to organize for intervention; mindfulness exercises to help focus and calm thinking; and survival skills for working For more information about NAMI Programs and services, visit http://www.namigo.org, or contact NAMI’s Orlando office at 407-253-1900.


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