There’s help for mental illness

To the editor:

Did you ever wonder if you were going “crazy”? Actually, one in four adults (57.7 million Americans) suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. One in seventeen lives with a serious disease such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.

Unfortunately, people suffering brain diseases are stigmatized as “crazy”. The truth is that mental illness is a disease of brain chemistry, not of character.

The stigma not only isolates, but often it is a roadblock to seeking diagnosis and treatment. Frequently, the symptoms prevent sufferers’ from being aware that they are ill. In addition, confidentiality laws and a legal status as an adult prevent one’s family and loved ones from getting help unless, or until the ill person is a danger to themselves or others.

Very often when mental illness strikes, it is family and loved ones who begin a long journey to learn about the disease, what services are available, how to communicate in a supportive way, etc.

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, exists to help these friends and family, and their loved ones who suffer from a brain disease. Our membership includes these very same people throughout Keweenaw, Houghton, Baraga, L’Anse, and Ontonagon counties.

We understand better than others just what their journey is like. We share our stories and knowledge with them so they know that they are not alone and can more easily navigate the road ahead.

Some of our other goals include helping the broader community see that brain diseases are no different than kidney disease or sugar diabetes. We lobby for increased funding for local diagnostic and treatment services, and we try to educate our community about mental health issues.

NAMI Keweenaw would not exist without the support we have received from the Rice Memorial Clinic Foundation. Their generous funding recently enabled a 12-member contingency to attend the NAMI Michigan Conference in Lansing.

We returned home more knowledgeable and excited about the potential of converting our ideas into effective programs within our community.

On behalf of NAMI Keweenaw, I would like to thank the Rice Memorial Clinic Foundation for their generosity.

NAMI Keweenaw meets every second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at Rice Memorial Center on Sharon Avenue in Houghton and is open to everyone.

Catherine Paavola