Making the Impossible Possible!


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 and go to 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 . 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
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