Sunday, September 11, 2005

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

Copyright 2005

People with mental illness still have many stereotypes to combat. Sometimes care givers may choose to ignore signs and symptoms hoping to manage their loved one his or herself.
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill member, Regina Richardson, said she felt that way

about her then 19-year-old son, nine years ago.
" He was at a party and someone put a mickey in his drink. I was told after the fact. He

didn't know and we didn't know what we were dealing with," she said.
Richardson occasionally wiped away tears as she recalled the years after the incident. She

characterized her son's condition as a "nervous breakdown" and said he wasn't connected

with reality.
"A person really doesn't know what they are doing to themselves or others. He became angry,

frustrated and his personality changed. He wouldn't listen to me," she said.
The breaking point came one evening after work. She told her son she was too tired to

take him to his father's house. He became incorrigible.
"He had just taken a bath and still had on his robe and gym shoes," she said.
Determined to get to his father's house, he walked outside dressed as he was in the middle of winter.
He was headed to the interstate--determined to see his father--and she said and the only immediate help was from a neighbor who drove around to find him. He was still dressed in his robe, waving his arms frantically while standing in the middle of traffic on the interstate.
Thereafter, Richardson said she knew her son needed help. She said the support she received through NAMI was invaluable.
NAMI is a nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families, and friends of people with severe mental illnesses. Mental illness is a growing concern throughout the United States and the local Gary Chapter works on issues most important to the community and state, the organization's web site read.
Richardson's son is 28-years old and he lives and works in Indianapolis. Richardson said she is proud of her son. He has his own place and his diagnosis of bipolar disorder is being managed with medication.
"He only has to take one pill a day," she said.
Although he couldn't make it to the second annual NAMI picnic Saturday held at Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living, Richardson was there working the grill.
"She's a good supporter of NAMI. What we want people to see is what biological brain disorder clients could be with treatment," Kathy Burney, a state representative of NAMI and local chapter leader,
said.
NAMI has many programs. The Crisis Intervention Team which is a collaboration between the Gary Police Department and Gary City Court that train law enforcement how to interact with clients who are in crisis so that injury is less likely. There are also support group meetings held.
Robert Nagan, director of the Brief Evaluation and Treatment Unit at Edgewater, said

clients with head injuries may exhibit behaviors characterized as unpredictable while in

crisis.
"Head injuries create damage that bring disturbances to the brain's chemistry and bring on

signs of mental illness," he said.
Burney said the socialization between clients at the picnic is a form of treatment that many may not often get to do because the symptoms they may exhibit--especially if in crisis--can frighten others. She said NAMI fights against the stigma placed on its clients.
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