In Valley, a Crisis in Care for Mental Illness

Recent budget decisions by the governors and state legislators in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont have caused a crisis here in the Valley for people with mental illness who don’t have good health insurance. That’s according to Paul Gorman. He’s president of the New Hampshire chapter of a national group, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Gorman is also director of the Dartmouth College Psychiatric Research Center www.dartmouth.edu He spoke with the Valley Post on July 13.

NAMI has some two dozen full-time employees at its headquarters near Washington, DC. It also has staff people at its offices in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It has active, volunteer-run chapters in Dublin, New Hampshire (near Keene); Springfield, Vermont (near Brattleboro); and Agawam, Massachusetts (a suburb of Springfield, Massachusetts).

The group’s mission is improve the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. Its web site is www.nami.org

According to www.nlm.nih.gov “Mental health is how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

“Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. But with a mental illness, these feelings do not go away and are severe enough to interfere with your daily life. It can make it hard to meet and keep friends, hold a job, or enjoy your life.”

“Mental illnesses are common – they affect about one in five families in the U.S. It is not your fault if you have one. These disorders – depression, phobias, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and many others – are real diseases that you cannot will or wish away. Fortunately, they are often treatable. Medicines and therapy can improve the life of most people with mental illnesses…”

“If someone talks about suicide, you should take it seriously. Urge them to get help from their doctor or the emergency room, or call 911. Therapy and medicines can help most people who have suicidal thoughts. Treating mental illnesses and substance abuse can reduce the risk of suicide.”

Here are the 11 most common causes of death in the United States (they are listed in order from most to least common):

Heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease,
sepsis (usually causes by bacterial infection), suicide.

Asked if the New Hampshire chapter of NAMI supports raising taxes on the rich to increase funding for mental health care, Gorman declined to comment.

The AFL-CIO and the League of Conservation Voters publish scorecards for all the members of Congress on their web sites. Gorman said the New Hampshire chapter of NAMI does not do this for state legislators, but it does send political candidates a survey, and publishes the results. This year’s results will be published in October, he said.

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