February 2013 - NAMI Pierce County

February 2013 Volume 5, Issue 2
Local Support & Information for Individuals and Families Living with Mental Illness and Brain Disorders
NAMI-Pierce County
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mental Health Support, Education and Advocacy
P.O. Box 111923
Tacoma, WA 98411-1923
Phone: 253-677-6629
Email: [email protected]
NAMI’s Free Mental Health Services
are Open to All
February - March Calendar
Valentine’s Day
February 14
Call a Friend and tell them how much you
appreciate them………………….
Monday, February 18
TACID Center Closed –
President’s Day Holiday
Connection Recovery Drop-In Groups
in Tacoma & Puyallup
Call 253-341-3463 for times and locations
Family & Friends-Support Group –
Wednesday nights in Tacoma - Call 677-6629
Mental Health Education
Family to Family- Family Education
In Our Own Voice Education for the Community
For Mental Health Emergencies in Pierce County
Call: 1-800-576-7764
For Mental Health Information & Support
Call: 1-877-780-5222 from 3 – 11 PM
Wed, February 20 at 6:00 PM
at the TACID Center
6315 S 19th St - Tacoma – next to TCC
Feb 20
6-8 PM
NAMI General Meeting and Pot Luck
Supper at the TACID Center
Mar 3
1:30 PM
NAMI Board Meeting Forza Coffee –
Pearl St. , Tacoma
All Members Welcome
Mar 20
NAMI General Meeting and Pot Luck
Supper at the TACID Center
May 18
NAMI-Day in Olympia
January 21
The State Legislature is busy this session with a wide
range of pressing problems. The most serious financial
challenge is to comply with the Supreme Court’s
“McCleary Decision” which ruled that our state has
failed to comply with our Constitutional requirement to
adequately fund K-12 education. The state will have to
find $1 billion to comply with the Court’s directive.
Nine NAMI members visited with our Pierce County
Senators and Representatives under the guidance of
Bob Winslow, our new Legislative Coordinator. With
mental health and mental illness on everyone’s mind,
our representatives in Olympia were listening to
what we had to say and looking hard at NAMIWashington’s legislative proposals.
The State’s finances haven’t improved that much and it
is difficult to fund public services. The bottom line is
that we are unlikely to see new dollars flowing into
agencies that serve persons with mental illness.
As Jim indicated in his column, it is unlikely that more
money will be allocated to the treatment of mental
problems so proposals asked for modifications to
existing laws to allow involuntary treatment before a
person becomes an imminent danger to themselves
or others, for more Assisted Outpatient Treatment,
and for more Peer Counselors in the treatment
agencies. Legislation proposed by others included
support for mental health education in the schools
and for fixing the problem of “boarding” mental
patients in emergency rooms, untreated until one of
the tiny number of hospital psychiatric beds is
available for them. It is an embarrassing truth that
the State of Washington has the lowest number of
psychiatric beds per capita of any state in the
February President’s Corner
The good news is that there is more interest in mental
health issues than we have seen in many years.
Spurred by tragic events such as the massacre at Sandy
Hook, CT, legislators have entered over a dozen new
bills about mental health. Some of these bills are
consistent with NAMI’s goals—but some may only
add to the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
NAMI-Pierce made a great showing at our NAMI
DAY lobby in January. We managed to reach more
legislators than we have in a long time. What we have
learned from these visits is that we need to become
year-round lobbyists, staying in touch with our
legislators even in the off-session.
Pierce County faces other challenges. We are working
in coalition with other organizations to urge our
County government to allocate more resources for
mental health. We will need help from each of you.
Finally, we need to become a much bigger NAMI if we
hope to achieve our goals. We need more members to
help sustain our efforts, both financially and as
volunteers. If you haven’t renewed your
membership—you need to do that now!
Jim Williams
Bob is putting together a cadre of individuals who are
interested in these issues and would be available to
testify, if needed. Call him at 253-952-6434 to
News … Notes … NAMI on the Move
news, notes and opinions by Ginny Peterson, Editor
Family to Family Class Starts February 28
Thursday evening Family to Family classes will be back
in just two weeks, taught by Evelyn Bowen-Crawford
and Henri Cloud. The 12-week free class series runs
from 5:30 to 8 PM and is open to family members,
caregivers and friends of persons with a mental health
When any individual lives with a mental illness, their
whole family is affected. But often there is no one to
explain what is happening to them or how to help.
Families, friends and co-workers are often mystified
and even hurt by actions and attitudes they can’t
explain. This class is one of the most valuable services
NAMI offers, as rated by feed back from students. If
you have family members or friends who need help in
coping with the mental Illness of a loved-one, please
urge them to register and join us.
lion’s share of the all human services capability
currently available. If these individuals received more
effective medical treatment for their brain disorders,
much of the service burden would be lifted from
emergency rooms, the jail, probation services, housing
agencies and even food banks. Although NAMI only
became a member in November, we are already
collaborating on legislative proposals and strategy
with Bob Winslow as a member of their Advocacy
For Your Information
Family to Family instructors are family members
themselves who can help dispel the mystery
surrounding common brain disorders and help families
cope with challenges. Because classroom space is
limited, pre-registration is required. For questions or
to register, call Evelyn Bowen-Crawford at
The TACID Center will be Closed for
President’s Day Holiday
Monday, February 18
Mark your Calendar for the NAMI- Walk May 18
If not, be looking for an envelope in your mailbox in
the next few weeks. There were some holes in our
renewal reminder system in 2012 – but they’ve been
repaired in 2013. A renewal form is headed in your
direction. Fill it out and send it back to stay involved
in our exciting programs and outreach. And be sure to
update your contact information. We can’t stay in
touch with you if we don’t know your email and phone
Hooray, hooray… the NAMI Walk returns to its
regular springtime slot this year – and hopefully to
dryer weather after last year’s late October soaking. So
reserve Saturday, May 18 and prepare for a great time
at Kirkland’s Marina Park with other NAMI affiliates
from around the state. This is our major fundraiser of
the year – It is the one activity that makes it possible
for NAMI to offer all our support groups, classes,
public presentations and literature to our community at
no cost. So invite your friends and family to join us as
we walk or to sponsor your own participation.
NAMI-Pierce Joins the Pierce County Human
Services Coalition As the old saying goes…There is
Thanks to Optum Health for their Generous
Grant: In October, Optum Health awarded NAMI-
strength in numbers. NAMI-Pierce has joined with
nearly 60 other Pierce County agencies, services and
support groups to become a part of the Human
Services Coalition.
Pierce a financial grant for materials and services to
help us raise our profile and become better known in
the Pierce County Community. Grant monies have
been used to buy portable equipment for our Virtual
Office and classes, for advertising our free services, for
purchasing and printing literature, for a new shelter
for Health Fairs and two new NAMI-Pierce banners.
Did you renew your NAMI Membership?
For the last 4 years the Coalition has listed Mental
Health as their top priority for county-wide action.
Why? Because they realize that individuals with
untreated or poorly-treated mental illness use the
Many thanks for helping us serve Pierce County
From the New York Times
January 25, 2013
Successful and Schizophrenic
THIRTY years ago, I was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. My prognosis was “grave”: I would never live
independently, hold a job, find a loving partner, get married. My home would be a board-and-care facility,
my days spent watching TV in a day room with other people debilitated by mental illness. I would work at
menial jobs when my symptoms were quiet. Following my last psychiatric hospitalization at the age of 28, I
was encouraged by a doctor to work as a cashier making change. If I could handle that, I was told, we would
reassess my ability to hold a more demanding position, perhaps even something full-time.
Then I made a decision. I would write the narrative of my life. Today I am a chaired professor at the
University of Southern California Gould School of Law. I have an adjunct appointment in the department of
psychiatry at the medical school of the University of California, San Diego, and am on the faculty of the New
Center for Psychoanalysis. The MacArthur Foundation gave me a genius grant.
Although I fought my diagnosis for many years, I came to accept that I have schizophrenia and will be in
treatment the rest of my life. Indeed, excellent psychoanalytic treatment and medication have been critical to
my success. What I refused to accept was my prognosis.
Conventional psychiatric thinking and its diagnostic categories say that people like me don’t exist. Either I
don’t have schizophrenia (please tell that to the delusions crowding my mind), or I couldn’t have
accomplished what I have (please tell that to U.S.C.’s committee on faculty affairs). But I do, and I have.
And I have undertaken research with colleagues at U.S.C. and U.C.L.A. to show that I am not alone. There
are others with schizophrenia and such active symptoms as delusions and hallucinations who have significant
academic and professional achievements.
Over the last few years, my colleagues, including Stephen Marder, Alison Hamilton and Amy Cohen, and I
have gathered 20 research subjects with high-functioning schizophrenia in Los Angeles. They suffered from
symptoms like mild delusions or hallucinatory behavior. Their average age was 40. Half were male, half
female, and more than half were minorities. All had high school diplomas, and a majority either had or were
working toward college or graduate degrees. They were graduate students, managers, technicians and
professionals, including a doctor, lawyer, psychologist and chief executive of a nonprofit group.
At the same time, most were unmarried and childless, which is consistent with their diagnoses. (My
colleagues and I intend to do another study on people with schizophrenia who are high-functioning in terms
of their relationships. Marrying in my mid-40s — the best thing that ever happened to me — was against all
odds, following almost 18 years of not dating.) More than three-quarters had been hospitalized between two
and five times because of their illness, while three had never been admitted.
How had these people with schizophrenia managed to succeed in their studies and at such high-level jobs?
We learned that, in addition to medication and therapy, all the participants had developed techniques to keep
their schizophrenia at bay. For some, these techniques were cognitive. An educator with a master’s degree
said he had learned to face his hallucinations and ask, “What’s the evidence for that? Or is it just a perception
problem?” Another participant said, “I hear derogatory voices all the time. ... You just gotta blow them off.”
Part of vigilance about symptoms was “identifying triggers” to “prevent a fuller blown experience of
symptoms,” said a participant who works as a coordinator at a nonprofit group. For instance, if being with
people in close quarters for too long can set off symptoms, build in some alone time when you travel with
Other techniques that our participants cited included controlling sensory inputs. For some, this meant
keeping their living space simple (bare walls, no TV, only quiet music), while for others, it meant distracting
music. “I’ll listen to loud music if I don’t want to hear things,” said a participant who is a certified nurse’s
assistant. Still others mentioned exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and getting enough sleep. A belief
in God and prayer also played a role for some.
One of the most frequently mentioned techniques that helped our research participants manage their
symptoms was work. “Work has been an important part of who I am,” said an educator in our group. “When
you become useful to an organization and feel respected in that organization, there’s a certain value in
belonging there.” This person works on the weekends too because of “the distraction factor.” In other words,
by engaging in work, the crazy stuff often recedes to the sidelines.
Personally, I reach out to my doctors, friends and family whenever I start slipping, and I get great support
from them. I eat comfort food (for me, cereal) and listen to quiet music. I minimize all stimulation. Usually
these techniques, combined with more medication and therapy, will make the symptoms pass. But the work
piece — using my mind — is my best defense. It keeps me focused, it keeps the demons at bay. My mind, I
have come to say, is both my worst enemy and my best friend.
THAT is why it is so distressing when doctors tell their patients not to expect or pursue fulfilling careers. Far
too often, the conventional psychiatric approach to mental illness is to see clusters of symptoms that
characterize people. Accordingly, many psychiatrists hold the view that treating symptoms with medication
is treating mental illness. But this fails to take into account individuals’ strengths and capabilities, leading
mental health professionals to underestimate what their patients can hope to achieve in the world.
It’s not just schizophrenia: earlier this month, The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry posted a study
showing that a small group of people who were given diagnoses of autism, a developmental disorder, later
stopped exhibiting symptoms. They seemed to have recovered — though after years of behavioral therapy
and treatment. A recent New York Times Magazine article described a new company that hires highfunctioning adults with autism, taking advantage of their unusual memory skills and attention to detail.
I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna about schizophrenia; mental illness imposes real limitations, and it’s
important not to romanticize it. We can’t all be Nobel laureates like John Nash of the movie “A Beautiful
Mind.” But the seeds of creative thinking may sometimes be found in mental illness, and people
underestimate the power of the human brain to adapt and to create.
An approach that looks for individual strengths, in addition to considering symptoms, could help dispel the
pessimism surrounding mental illness. Finding “the wellness within the illness,” as one person with
schizophrenia said, should be a therapeutic goal. Doctors should urge their patients to develop relationships
and engage in meaningful work. They should encourage patients to find their own repertory of techniques to
manage their symptoms and aim for a quality of life as they define it. And they should provide patients with
the resources — therapy, medication and support — to make these things happen.
“Every person has a unique gift or unique self to bring to the world,” said one of our study’s participants. She
expressed the reality that those of us who have schizophrenia and other mental illnesses want what everyone
wants: in the words of Sigmund Freud, to work and to love.
Elyn R. Saks is a law professor at the University of Southern California and the author of the memoir “The Center
Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.”
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