College & Bipolar: Strategies for Success

College can be hard even without a bipolar diagnosis but with lifestyle changes and plenty of support, you can totally score that diploma.
As if you don’t have enough to handle just getting through college, wham—you get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Truth is, the timing makes biological sense. The late-teen years are a vulnerable period for onset of mental illness, whether you’re at college or not, because of the way the adolescent brain develops and teenagers typically behave.
Finding out you have bipolar is a blow, but it doesn’t need to knock you out of the game. With lifestyle changes and plenty of support, you can totally score that diploma—especially if you’re willing to take some extra time, have a plan B and, most of all, accept and accommodate the illness, says Russ Federman, PhD.
“I feel very optimistic about students’ ability to lead satisfying and productive lives,” says Federman, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Virginia (UVA) and co-author of Facing Bipolar: The Young Adult’s Guide to Dealing with Bipolar Disorder (New Harbinger, 2010).
Read entire article at BPHope.com.

The Latest PTSD Research

The recent National VA Research Week (May 16-20) and PTSD Awareness Month in June are ideal times to assess the state of science regarding posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the often-debilitating psychiatric condition that can arise in the wake of intensely stressful life events such as combat, trauma or disaster.
Part of raising awareness about PTSD is publicizing the federal program devoted exclusively to gathering and disseminating scientific information about the illness: the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD), is a centers of excellence consortium with seven VA academic centers based on areas of special expertise.
NCPTSD has flourished since it was established in 1989, and continues to help policymakers, the medical and caregiving community, patients, and the general public understand the scientific basis for PTSD, circulating that information globally through a variety of educational and research initiatives.
“Research is helping us better understand how to address PTSD, how to prevent people from developing it, and how to treat it,” said NCPTSD Executive Director Paula Schnurr, Ph.D. “One of the most exciting changes in our field is that we have a range of effective treatments, so people who have PTSD have a choice among types of medications and among types of psychotherapies, and they can really see a life that goes beyond PTSD.”
PTSD now fully acknowledged as a serious mental illness.
Read entire article https://genesight.com/the-latest-ptsd-research-and-what-the-future-holds/

Randi Silverman on Motherhood, Bipolar Disorder and Movies

Randi Silverman’s new film No Letting Go reflects the real-life struggles of her family after her middle son began to manifest early symptoms of bipolar disorder.
The bewildering effort to figure out what was wrong and how to make it better fired Randi’s  passion to help other parents. She co-founded a support group, dove into advocacy, and wrote the script that became No Letting Go.
How closely does the movie mirror your own family’s experiences?
My son was actually diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 9 years old and seriously ill by age 10. In the movie, we made “Tim” a teenager because onset of mental illness during adolescence is more typical. Also, my son was treated voluntarily, but we wanted to acknowledge that it is often very difficult and painful to get teens to comply with treatment. Otherwise, every scene in the movie, every conversation, actually happened in real life in some way or another.
Why expose your family’s raw pain on screen?
It’s not my son’s fault that his brain works the way it does, any more than it is another child’s fault for having asthma or diabetes. I decided that if I didn’t talk about it honestly and without shame, then I couldn’t expect the conversation about mental health disorders to change. But I would never have put our story out there for the world to see if my family wasn’t 100 percent supportive.
Read entire article at www.BPHope.com

H.R. 2646 Passed Unanimously

You did it.
Thanks to your advocacy, H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, passed unanimously (53-0) out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee on Wednesday, June 15th.
Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) said, “I want to thank all the advocates. You are the ones who held our feet to the fire to get this passed.”
Keep the fire going.
Let your members of Congress know that you appreciate the unanimous vote by the House Energy & Commerce Committee and urge them to bring a vote to the floor of the House and Senate. 
Click HERE to Email Now!

Guide for College Students with Psychiatric Disabilities

According to the latest statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 43.8 million Americans, or 18.5% of the national population, experience mental illness every year.
College students with psychiatric disabilities face unique educational challenges. Dedicated mental health counselors and disability coordinators are available on most campuses, and students can typically seek medical attention. Many students, however, do not know how to get help for their problems. To help students get the assistance they need, we have examined instructional strategies, course accommodations, and other campus services designed to serve this population. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive resource for college-bound high school seniors and currently enrolled postsecondary students who struggle with mental illness.
Read the entire article at www.bestcolleges.com/resources/

Greener Pastures Initiative

Greetings NAMI Northsiders and Friends:
Greener Pastures lay ahead!
This month, we had a very special meeting in place of our normal education meeting.
As we reflect on the many positive things that we have
accomplished in recent years,
we know there is much more that can be done to support
individuals suffering with a mental illness, their families and caregivers.
Annually, NAMI Northside serves approximately 5000 people via our website
and makes over 2000 in-person contacts via our Support Groups,
education meetings, and education classes such as Family to Family.
Since 2013, we have sponsored an annual Mental Health Fair showcasing
services and advocacy for individuals suffering with mental illness.
Every October we sponsor a Team for NAMI Walks, a nationwide
fundraising and mental health awareness program, using the funds collected to finance
our many support programs.
For the near term, we will continue to enhance the services we currently provide and focus on some new and exciting services:
Creating a high quality Resource Directory, adding new classes and programs like NAMI Homefront serving Veterans suffering from a mental illness and their families, and increasing our level of advocacy.
For the longer term, we will focus on major new services such as
housing support and a clubhouse for our NAMI Northside community.
In order to meet the above goals, we are launching the “Greener Pastures
Initiative, designed to support the current state of services as well as provide new offerings and programs.
At our June 27th monthly education meeting, we will be presenting our future plans and
ideas for NAMI Northside and will be discussing the many opportunities for you,
the members of our NAMI family, to get involved and support the “Greener Pastures” Initiative.
Whether you have a little time or a lot of time to get involved, our NAMI family needs
you!
Together we can accomplish great things! GO GREEN!
Click HERE to get involved and complete a volunteer form.

College guide for students with psychiatric disabilities

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported the following about college students:
  • 30% struggle with school work due to mental illness
  • 25% experience suicidal thoughts
  • 14% engage in reckless behavior
These shocking numbers moved the team at BestColleges.com to do more research about mental illness among students. We realized those struggling with mental illness contend with a true disability that requires the full support of their learning community. We published our College Guide for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities as a way to start a conversation about this issue. Our goal is to share this with as many students, families, and educators as possible.

 

Making the Impossible Possible!

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On April 23, 2016 NAMI Northside Atlanta brought together close to 200 people to start a conversation about recovery, support, success stories, gaps in service and what might be possible for our mental health system in Georgia. The guest speakers included Nora Haynes, Larry Fricks, Sue Smith, Judge Asha Jackson and Bill Carruthers. These speakers represented many of the successful and innovative programs currently in place in Georgia.
Larry Fricks spoke about the move towards Whole Body Health in recovery treatment. He shared that meaning and purpose in life is the top thing that is important for recovery. We all recognize that this is important to every individual and that mental illness can often be a barrier to achieving this. It is important for all individuals to have access to purpose and meaning in life through jobs, social networks or through service to others.
Judge Asha Jackson shared her personal passion for the support of treatment instead of punishment of individuals impacted by mental illness. She has been a key figure in advocating for the Dekalb County Felony Mental Health Court in Georgia. She called for the need to address the gap for individuals with co-occurring disorders. Many individuals have contact with the judicial system as a result of the symptoms of their mental illness. Often they are not considered “sick enough” in order to participate in the Mental Health Diversion Court. There are just not enough resources and treatment options for those individuals who are deemed, “not sick enough”.
Sue Smith of the Georgia Parent Support Network spoke about the importance of early intervention for youth experiencing their first psychotic break. Mental health researchers have demonstrated the importance of early intervention and the long term impact on recovery for the individuals. There are several early intervention programs currently in Georgia including Epic. Learn more about these programs at http://dekcsb.org/services/child-adolescent/peip/ and go to http://dbhdd.org/healing/ to find a list and location of services. Ms Smith spoke of the need for more resources and supports for parents who have children experiencing mental health issues. She stated “this has to be a movement and we all need to be a part of it.”
Mr. Bill Carruthers is an inspirational speaker who shared his experience of the impact access to mental health resources and “purpose and meaning in life” can have on recovery. He spoke of the success NAMI has had in supporting families and the need to offer more support to individuals with a mental illness diagnosis. We are all aware of the huge impact that peer families (families who have walked our same path) offer to other families. This needs to be extended to include more peers diagnosed with a brain disorder in recovery actively participating and included in NAMI education and support programs. Individuals are more open and receptive to others who have already walked the same path. NAMI needs to focus on our shared goal of ending stigma and offering education and support.
There is a need to keep this conversation moving forward. Georgia is on the mend. Providing a venue for programs such as the mental health fair can assist in promoting the continued progress forward. Offering more support groups, educational opportunities and mental health resources will open up the door for our community to heal. Robert Byrne once said “The purpose of life is a life of purpose”. How true for all of us! Let’s all join together to support those in our community impacted by mental illness.
You can help continue this call to mend the mental health system in Georgia by supporting the efforts of NAMI Northside Atlanta at www.naminorthsideatlanta.org . We currently have an anonymous donor who will match your donations up to $10,000. Won’t you help us to make the impossible possible?
Neitcha Thomsen
NNA Board Member

Georgia on the Mend

Our NNA Mental Health Fair, “Georgia on the Mend”, is a celebration of the organizations and individuals who have been instrumental in opening the door to opportunities for recovery to individuals and families impacted by mental illness. Can you imagine all of the lost opportunities if people had just given up and said “I am just one person, what difference can I make.”? One of the NAMI Support Group quotes is “We will never give up hope”. Bringing together the community and mental health organizations is our way of saying there is hope for a better mental health system in Georgia. We have seen what works. We are highlighting the programs that work and encouraging the conversation about expanding these resources.
One such program that works is the Opening Doors to Recovery program (ODR). This program partnered with prisons and supported returning individuals impacted by mental illness to their communities along with assisting them to navigate the system and begin their path to recovery. The program put together peer, family and professional navigation specialists. This year we are fortunate to have Nora Haynes and Bill Carruthers on our panel at “Georgia on the Mend”. They are two key individuals who played instrumental parts in the Opening Doors to Recovery program. In addition we have Judge Jackson who initiated the creation of the Dekalb County Felony Mental Health Court. Both of these programs are helping individuals and families impacted by mental illness mend in Georgia. I encourage you to watch the following two videos to learn more:

https://youtu.be/Y2NJEL2WfCU and https://youtu.be/cMoSaDWyXfo

door

Click HERE to learn more about our Mental Health Fair and/or register for the free lunch.

4th Annual Mental Health Fair April 23!

There has been a shift in the mental health system from a Medical Model to a Recovery Model. There was more focus on disease, disability, staff-client hierarchy, social separation, dependence and compliance to a plan. The mental health system is now putting more focus on a Recovery Model which is driven by identified client strengths, holistic treatment, social integration and resiliency.
Have you heard about the 5 Peer Support and Wellness Centers in Georgia (PSWC)? The Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network was established in 1991. It supports such endeavors as the Georgia Peer Support Institute along with the Peer Support and Wellness Centers. Currently these centers are located in Decatur, White County, Bartow County, Colquitt County and Henry County. These wellness centers provide activities, respite beds, a warm-line and trained peers who can assist in aiding a client in their recovery. Certified Peer Specialists are trained in trauma informed care along with skills to help a client develop a Wellness Recovery Action Plan.
When I reflect on the many ways individuals and families impacted by mental illness are “on the mend” in Georgia, I often think of the impact peers can provide. NAMI support group meetings are facilitated by peer volunteers who provide hope, support and lived experience. This is also experienced in our Family-to-Family classes which are facilitated by individuals who have a loved one with a mental illness. Many times our peers can have much more impact on us than mental health professionals and provide us with the knowledge that “we are not alone.” In addition organizations such as NAMI and the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network serve to promote a focus on strengths, resiliency and social integration. The individuals and the families impacted by mental illness are all going through their own recovery journey. We have some proven recovery resources in Georgia and there is a need to expand these so that more people in our community have access to them. I encourage you to visit the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network website at www.gmhcn.org along with viewing a video that highlights a respite center in Massachusetts at https://youtu.be/9x8h3LvEB04
Please join me in learning more about the ways Georgia is moving forward in the mental health system at our 4th annual NAMI Northside Atlanta Mental Health Fair, “Georgia on the Mend”, on April 23, 2016 and learn more about mental health resources in our community. Register to attend this free event at www.naminorthsideatlanta.org . Be sure to check back on this blog to learn about more organizations and programs impacting the recovery process.
Neitcha Thomsen
NNA Board Member

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