Volunteers wanted for NAMI

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


Feeling that there are many areas of mental health treatment that are not being addressed, a grassroots movement promoting mental health in Iowa hopes to take root in Washington County with the help of area volunteers.

On Tuesday, about 15 people gathered in the Washington Public Library to discuss beginning a local branch of the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), a group dedicated to creating a better life for people with mental illness. The group has hundreds of local affiliates nationally and is dedicated to raising awareness and providing support for people with mental illness and their caregivers that is not previously available.

?It was started by a group of people sitting around a kitchen table in 1979 who decided they needed more services,? Burlington member Tami DeCoursey said. ?They work toward advocacy, education support and public awareness so that all individuals affected by mental illness can improve their lives. NAMi envisions a world where all people affected by mental illness can experience recovery and wellness.?

She said the organization is peer-based and has many support systems. The purpose of the meeting was to gauge the amount of support for a Washington County NAMI affiliate. To begin, the group needs volunteers to be on a board and several committees.

Initial steps to start a NAMI group in a county include a mental illness support group, led by somoene with a mental illness, as well as a support group for caregivers of people with mental illnesses. There are also training programs for a varitety of groups.

Volunteer Joni Elder, of Fairfield, said the group had been working on the region?s affiliation since earlier this summer. She said people are needed to create the programs offered to aid the people in need.

During the meeting, DeCoursey went on to talk about the stigma people have when dealing with the topic of mental illness, as well as talking about some of the problems faced by people with mental illness. She explained that if someone went into an emergency room with a heart attack, the physicians would take care of it immediately but someone coming into an emergency room with psychotic delusions usually only gets sedated.

The others at the meeting discussed the shortcomings of the current mental health system in the state, with one person commenting that Iowa received a letter grade of ?D? for its mental health treatment program.

It was determined during the meeting that there was interest and a need, but additional meetings would be needed to judge the amount of interest in Washington County. No date has been set for additional meetings.

For more information or to volunteer, contact local member Julie Todd at (319) 671-3526 or at