Wednesday, December 19, 2012

National Alliance of the Mentally Ill's advice and comments on the Sandy Hook School shooting

The National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI eastside) family grieves for the children and families impacted by the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Despite considerable speculation, there has been no real information as to whether Adam Lanza had a mental illness or if his family sought mental health services. However, with the focus on mental illness, this is a good time to remind the public about the prevalence of mental illness and the need for more services and supports for those living with it every day.

What we can say with certainty is that mental illness exists in every state, every city and every Neighborhood in the U.S. One in 4 adults experiences a mental health disorder in a given year.

One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness and 1 in 10 children has a serious mental or emotional disorder. Yet fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosed mental disorder receive mental health services in a given year. There are many reasons for this, including:

· Lack of knowledge about mental illness

· Stigma of mental illness deters people from seeking help

· Individuals and families don’t know that treatment works or where to go for help

· When individuals or families do seek help, the services are frequently not available.

Over a decade ago, the Surgeon General concluded in a report that “the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.” However, when violence does occur, it is usually because something has gone terribly wrong in the mental health care system. Either something has fallen short or something hasn’t happened at all.

It is hard to think of any good that might come out of this tragedy. However, we would be remiss if we did not call attention to the mental health crisis our country is facing, to confront hurtful stereotypes, to take steps to learn more about mental illness, and to ensure that people have access to the care and treatment they need.

Nami National's Statement Includes Trauma Resources:

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 14, 2012 -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has issued the following statement which includes recommended links to trauma resources for families:   Read More >>

"Like other Americans, NAMI is horrified and saddened by today's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As of Friday at 5:00 p.m. (Eastern), news reports indicated that close to 30 people were shot and killed, most of them children. We extend our sympathy to their families and to all who knew and loved them.

It is extremely important that the Newtown, Conn. community be prepared to provide trauma services and resources to all those affected by the tragedy. Our national community must do so as well. The tragedy will inevitably leave an impression on many children. Parents and caregivers throughout the country will need to reassure them.

American Psychiatric Association recommendations include:

· Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions.

· Give honest answers and information. Use words and concepts they can understand.

· Help children to find ways to express themselves and to know that people are there to help. Remember also that children learn by watching parents and teachers react and listening to their conversations.

· Don't let children watch too much television with frightening repetitious images.

· Monitor for physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches or other pains.

Additional resources are also available from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS), the University of Maryland Center for School Mental Health (CSMH) and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

NAMI will follow news reports closely as more details become known. At this time, there is no indication that mental illness was a factor in the tragedy. It is important to not make assumptions or speculate in such cases. The overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.

When tragedies occur, no matter what their nature or cause, national, state and local communities must come together to find out what went wrong and to take steps to ensure it does not happen again. We expect such scrutiny to occur in days and weeks ahead. Today, however, is a time to mourn and pray for the victims of a senseless act and for their survivors. As a nation, we must reassure each other."

It seems an appropriate time to send a reminder about Nami Eastsides Support Groups. Currently there are five family support groups held Tuesday through Thursday at various eastside locations.
There are also support groups for folks living with mental illness. We also have a Spanish speaking joint family /consumer group, as well as a mental health and spirituality joint family/consumer group. Please call the Nami Eastside office at 425 885-6264 for exact times and locations.
The Family support group number 5 that meets Thursdays at Washington Cathhedral Church in Redmond will not be meeting on December 27, 2012.

By Barbara Thompson, Executive Director
NAMI-Eastside chapter

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