2016 Mental Health Fair April 23!

Mend / verb
repair (something that is broken or damaged)
synonyms: repair, fix, put back together, piece together, restore; sew (up), stitch, darn, patch, cobble; rehabilitate, renew, renovate
As individuals and families impacted by mental illness, we have a lot of experience in attempting to repair relationships, piece together resources or restore our sense of hope. We can all agree that the mental health system in the United States is broken. Approximately 43.8 million adults experience mental illness a year in our country. Many individuals and organizations are working tirelessly each day to repair and renovate mental health treatment services that are so desperately needed. One of our guest panelists for this year’s NAMI Northside Atlanta Mental Health Fair is Larry Fricks, the founder of Georgia’s Peer Specialist Training and Certification program. Being a Certified Peer Specialist not only provides an opportunity for the individuals they serve to begin to mend but it provides a sense of purpose, belonging, goals, dreams and health to the Peer Specialist. Georgia needs more mental health service organizations employing Certified Peer Specialists who can address the special needs of individuals impacted by mental illness in a unique and very effective way due to their lived experience.
Many things are needed for an individual or family to mend. When the family or the individual is asked “what have you lost” due to the impact of mental illness, it is often very similar things. Both individuals and family members will list the loss of: jobs, sense of self, dreams, goals, health, sense of purpose, friends, family, money, security and much more. These losses impact all the parts that give a person or family a sense of wellbeing. It impacts their mind, body and spirit. In order to begin the process of mending or recovery, these all need to be addressed. NAMI has several programs which assist individuals in this process of mending. NAMI offers both peer and family support groups to address all these areas. The educational programs such as Family-to-Family and Peer-to-Peer address the mind through education and skill building about mental health along with providing a sense of belonging. Volunteering with NAMI can address the spiritual side of a person and provide a sense of purpose and nurturing.
In order to mend and move toward recovery, individuals and families need to move through their grief process. According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ theory of the five stages of grief, people have certain needs during these stages. They are the need for communication, education, emotional support, guidance and direction. We have some organizations which meet these needs for individuals and families, but we need more. Many people do not have access to these mental health services due to barriers of money, location and the number of individuals the organization is able to serve. Georgia has begun the movement towards mending of our mental health system. NAMI Northside Atlanta hopes to support this movement of restoration by opening a dialog at our Mental Health Fair and highlighting the providers of mental health services that currently exist and are working well.
I will be highlighting some of the programs, people and organizations who are helping Georgia mend in future posts to this website. My hope is that with knowledge about what is working in Georgia we can begin a dialog about what is working and what is needed in the future to expand the number of services available to individuals and families impacted by mental illness. I hope you will join me.
Neitcha Thomsen
Nami Northside Atlanta Board Member
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