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NAMI looks to have impact in Albany | VIDEO

The National Alliance on Mental Illness plays important role in Albany

Jere Brands from the Albany Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) addresses the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County.


Jere Brands of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) addresses the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County at a recent meeting. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)

Jere Brands of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) addresses the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County at a recent meeting. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)

Video

Jere Brands at Kiwanis

Jere Brands from the Albany Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) addresses the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County.

Jere Brands from the Albany Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) addresses the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County.

ALBANY — While mental illness is often ignored by the general public, it is a serious issue facing society and one Albany group is hoping to bring discussion about things like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and other serious afflictions out of shadows of family living rooms and doctor’s offices and into the open so those affected can find the help they deserve.

Albany’s Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) members and its supporters, along with local mental health care professionals, address many issues surrounding mental illness and offer services to help those suffering with mental disorders.

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Jere Brands, president of NAMI’s Albany Chapter, during a recent address to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County, said one of the biggest issues facing those with mental illness, or brain disorders, is the stigma that is often attached to having those disorders. Many who are suffering, Brands said, are too embarrassed to seek the help they need or don’t know it is available.

“The reason for this is that less than 40 percent of those that are ill actually see a mental health professional,” Brand said. “They don’t want to believe it and their families don’t want to believe it, but also one of the symptoms of schizophrenia in particular is you don’t believe you’re sick. So that being a symptom means people don’t seek help and they refuse help when it’s offered. And when they are given medication, they don’t want to take it.”

That’s where NAMI comes in as the organization’s primary goals are to offer support, education awareness and advocacy for those living with mental illness and their families. Some of the illnesses NAMI tries to bring attention to are addiction, chronic pain, dementia, schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder and multiple sclerosis.

Brand said NAMI offers support groups for people with mental illnesses and their families as means of helping them cope with the issues surrounding mental illness.

“In the United States NAMI has more than 950 affiliates in all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and the common goal is to free those who live with mental illnesses and their families from stigma and discrimination and to assure access to world class mental health systems to speed their recovery because recovery is possible,” Brands said. “These are chronic diseases and most of them we have to live with but with treatment you can live with them.”

Brands said statistics show that one in four adults and one in five youth ages 13 to 18 have a severe mental problem in any given year.

She added that more than one percent of the population worldwide has schizophrenia, 2.6 percent have bipolar disorder, 6.7 percent have major depression. In the United States, Brand said more than 18 percent of the population has an anxiety disorder.

It’s NAMI’s hope, Brand said that through its efforts a greater dialogue will be created so that people will begin to deal with mental illness in a productive way so that help can be found for those living with afflictions.

“We used to actually not talk about cancer, and certainly not breast cancer and not prostate cancer,” Brands said. “But today we do talk about those things and I say, ‘why not talk about mental illness, because it’s there?’ There is a lot of help in Albany.”

Brands said that in addition to the support groups NAMI also helps people find access to mental health care and that two groups in Albany, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Behavioral Health Center and Aspire, provided excellent treatment for a variety of illnesses.

She added that Georgia, through the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, offers the Georgia Crisis and Access Line where anyone can call (800) 715-4225 any day of the week, 24 hours a day if they are in crisis and need assistance or have concerns about themselves or a loved one. Help can also be found through the Crisis and Access Line website at mygcal.com.

NAMI’s next support meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Phoebe Northwest.