Ending the stigma attached to mental illness and helping afflicted persons recover will save society money, two speakers told a Carson City Rotary luncheon audience Tuesday.
Robin Reedy, president of the Western Nevada affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Linda Porzig, the affiliate’s chief educator, double-teamed Rotarians by providing insights about helping both the mentally ill and family or friends affected by fallout. The pair said if family and friends can cope better, those afflicted will do so as well and societal savings will result.
“NAMI can actually save money,” said Reedy, whose personal tale of working with the affiliate included the fact she spent prior years “running away from crazy” because of a parental affliction with which she had to cope. Now, however, she sees value in education and programs that require financial underpinning. She said the Legislature needs to understand savings result, for example, by keeping the mentally ill out of jails and prisons.
Society, however, must not only spend wisely to save money but also end the stigma attached to mental illness. “We can make a difference; all we have to do is start,” said Reedy.
Porzig, who moved from Arizona to the area a couple of years ago and brought her interest in NAMI action with her, spoke of varied courses offered in Carson City, Douglas County and beginning to penetrate rural counties through the western Nevada NAMI affiliate’s efforts. Among the important offerings is NAMI Basics for parents and other caregivers of children or adolescents with mental illness or pertinent symptoms.
“If we get to young people early, the whole life trajectory changes,” said Porzig. “If you address this problem when they’re young, you can change the course of their whole lives.”
She also said pressure on the health care system can be alleviated when families and friends understand how to both cope with and help any loved one facing such problems, giving as an example a drop in the number of mentally ill who wind up going to hospital emergency rooms.
Other courses NAMI offers, she said, are NAMI Family-to-Family, dealing with similar efforts but not just involving those afflicted in youth; NAMI Family Support Group; NAMI Peer Support Group; NAMI In Our Own Voice, which includes presentations by those living with a mental illness in recovery, and some time in 2015 NAMI Peer-to-Peer, which emphasizes recovery as a feasible and supportable goal.
In addition, she said, Nevada will become the least populous state with a NAMI/Veterans Administration effort to aid returning veterans from theaters of conflict. She said Nevada has a high concentration of veterans.