Dear NAMI State Organization and Affiliate Leaders,
For all Americans, this has been a long and challenging week. NAMI has been inundated with calls from the news media and others—policymakers and ordinary family members— seeking information in the wake of the Arizona tragedy about mental illness and mental health care.
THIS TRAGEDY OFFERS AN OPPORTUNITY . CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS – It’s important that elected officials—particularly governors and state legislators—understand that the Arizona tragedy is a national tragedy that means they have to take steps now to fix the mental healthcare system.
Please send a message today to your elected officials. We’ve prepared a sample letter you can send here: NAMI’s on-line CapWiz tool. Send an action alert to your own state and local networks asking them to do so as well. Follow-up with postal letters or additional email or personal contacts in constituent meetings in the weeks ahead.
Following NAMI’s official statement on the tragedy on Jan.10, we have worked to help shape news coverage with considerable results. Many NAMI leaders have been interviewed and quoted in leading media at the national, state and local level. Thank you—all of you—for helping to move the focus of news stories from political rhetoric and guns to America’s broken mental health care system—especially the need for early evaluation and treatment and elimination of stigma.
A TEACHABLE MOMENT – In your communities, reporters, friends and others may be askng “How did this happen?’” and “What can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen here?” This is a teachable moment. You may have opportunities to make the same basic points that we have over the last week:
- Individuals and families should not be afraid to reach out for help when they need it and no one should be afraid to offer help.
- It’s not about political rhetoric. It’s not about guns. It’s mental health care.
- Most people living with mental illness are not violent. The U.S. has said the likelihood is “exceptionally small.” Acts of violence are exceptional—which means something has gone terribly wrong.
- The mental health care system is broken. We need to fix it.
- In the last few years, budget cuts have devastated mental health services in all states—not just Arizona .
- We need to strengthen the system so that people can get the right help at the right time.
To date, NAMI has had 75 or more direct media contacts—we’ve lost count! The total coverage is too long to list here, but I do want to share a few highlights, below. I also encourage you to follow NAMI’s continuingefforts on Facebook and Twitter.
- NPR, The Diane Rehm Show: “Serious Psychiatric Disorders Among Young Adults”
- C-SPAN Washington Journal, January 13
- Newsweek, “Our Broken Mental Health System”
- TIME “If You Think Someone Is Mentally Ill: Loughner’s Six Warning Signs”
- USA Today, “Loughner Could Have Been Committed Under Arizona Law”
- The Huffington Post, “Nearly 50% of Mental Health Recipients in Giffords’ District Were Dropped in 2010”
- The New Republic, Reexamining Mental
NAMI RESOURCES – NAMI is here to help individuals, families and communities. Whether through the NAMI website and HelpLine or your office and phone lines, we’re all trying to offer information that can help save lives. The importance of family education and support has been made especially clear this week.
- The NAMI web site carries a vast array of information and resources.
- NAMI’s Newsroom points reporters to helpful resources such as Grading the States and provides press releases that affiliates can use for themselves.
- Family-to-Family classes all across the country offer the support and help that families need.
- StrengthOfUs, a social networking site for transition-age youth, provides a supportive environment for finding and offering peer support.
Thank you for the work you are doing in your community. Thank you for being there for all of those who need our help.