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YOUR TURN: Help is here for mentally ill

By Michael Danahy

Every day, “breaking news” headlines highlight the disastrous impact that mental illnesses are having on families here in town and across the country.

You may not have heard of NAMI yet, but soon you will more and more. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is our country’s largest nonprofit grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families. An affiliate of NAMI Mississippi has formed in Oxford and you need to know about its helpful programs “just in case.”

A free six-week class conducted by trained and experienced instructors will start Oct 6. It is a peer education program for family members of those living with mental illness. In 12 sessions you will learn about specific serious medical conditions like schizophrenia, PTSD, OCD, major depression and bipolar disorder. Topics covered include symptoms, medications, coping skills, communication and problem-solving strategies, along with self-care related to stress.

“It’s important to preregister for the free class so we will have the correct amount of materials for the participants,” said Lynn Gilbert, one of the instructors.

For more information, contact Michael Danahy at 662-232-8851.

NAMI Oxford also sponsors two ongoing support groups. The Family Support Group provides support and encouragement to family members, partners and caregivers of individuals with a mental illness. This group meets every second and fourth Saturday of each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Administration Building of North Mississippi Regional Center.

For more information, call 662-234-9572 or NAMI Mississippi 1-800-357-0388.

NAMI Connection is a weekly recovery support group for people living with a mental illness. People learn from each others’ experiences, share coping strategies and offer encouragement and understanding. This group meets every Sunday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Magnolia Room at Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi. For more information, call 662-816-0469 or NAMI Mississippi at 1-800-357-0388.

Untreated mental illness all too often leads to dysfunctional home life or homelessness, self-medication, unemployment and violence.

Hope is on the horizon. On the national level, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced The Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S. 1945), bipartisan legislation to “comprehensively overhaul and strengthen America’s mental health care system.”

The bill addresses many of the same issues as the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” (HR 2646) introduced by Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-La.) in the House of Representatives. In August, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the “Mental Health and Safe Communities Act,” to prevent unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness and enhance treatment and services for individuals while they are in correctional facilities and following release.

Michael Danahy is a representative with NAMI Mississippi’s Oxford affiliate.