September 2016 NAMI Northern Nevada Newsletter!
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September 2016 Newsletter!

Hello NAMI Northern Nevada!

Welcome to the September 2016 Newsletter!
(Remember to enable images so you can see some of the amazing photos we have included in this e-mail.) In this newsletter we have articles from:

  • President Jerry O'Brien, about our on-going collaboration with PAN
  • Chelsea Sladek from The Bridge Church in Reno.
  • Sue Brune about NAMI's work at the Homeless Resource Center, Project Restart
  • Brian Keefe about Mental Illness and the Workplace
  • Kelly Ranasinghe about upcoming events and healthy relationships.
  • Hear about our September speaker, Chuck Duarte from Community Health Alliance!
So don't miss out and remember to pass on the newsletter to anyone who needs it!

                                               Kelly Ranasinghe JD
                                               NAMI Northern Nevada

Chuck Duarte, Executive Director of Community Health Alliance is speaking to NAMI September 29th on Integrated Care!

Chuck Duarte is one of the most experienced individuals in the state when it comes to mental health.  For over twelve years, he administered the Nevada Medicaid Program, which provides nearly 20%, (1 in 5) of the people in Nevada with health-care including psychiatric and therapeutic services. In 2014, the Nevada Medicaid program provided nearly 1.7 billion dollars in fiscal spending, helping nearly 600,000 people in the state. Before working at Nevada, Church Duarte also was administer of Hawaii's Medicaid program and ran teaching clinics throughout Honolulu.

On Thursday September 29th,Chuck Duarte will be a special guest of NAMI Northern Nevada at our Monthly Speaker Meeting. His topic is Integrated Care.

NAMI Northern Nevada and Collaboration
by Jerry O'Brien, President

Hello NAMI Northern Nevada!

There is a new volunteer group that has sprung up in recent years called PAN, or Peer Alliance of Nevada.  For some time, I was not sure how to understand them.  I worried that they would compete with NAMI Northern Nevada for membership and in their message.  As a biology student, many years ago, I seemed to remember that in direct competitions, as between two different species of paramecia, if there is one opponent that is just slightly more competitive than the other, it will then come to dominate and edge the other out in a very short time.  I wondered if this is what was going to happen with PAN and NAMI in Nevada. I became afraid and mistrustful.

I have been with NAMI for many years.  When I came to Nevada to live with my parents, I was struggling with my mental illness but NAMI was there to help me in the form of support groups.  Later, I came to volunteer with NAMI and I found a place where I could learn new skills like writing newsletter articles and grant writing.  I grew in confidence and as a person.  Eventually, I became President of NAMI Northern Nevada.  I wanted to bring NAMI to more people affected with mental illness and their family members and to have them know the belonging that I felt.

As I see it, NAMI is an organization with a noble mission.  We educate the public – especially peers, family members, police officers and decision makers – on the nature of mental illnesses.  NAMI programs demystify brain disorders, helping people understand what they are going through, what they can expect for the future and that recovery and a good life is possible even for people with mental illness.  Beyond that, NAMI encourages the formation of the coping and communication skills that protect relationships between family members, loved ones and people with mental illness.  NAMI also brings people together in mutual support, helping them help each other.

Still, aside from NAMI, there were a handful of people working in peer support who were fed up with the way their peers were being treated when receiving services. They reached out to a technical assistance center called Peerlink of Oregon and asked for help in developing a peer network in Nevada.  Trainings were held featuring Robyn Priest and Donita Diamata, telling their stories of recovery from mental illness.  They stressed peer support and growing networks of people across the world standing together in advocacy.  They also advanced the idea that some people could live without medication and some even recover completely from their illnesses.  Out of these trainings, and much hard work by those involved, came a new organization called Peer Alliance of Nevada. 

For some time, many of us in NAMI Northern Nevada were unsure what to think of the new group.  Their apparent stance on taking or not taking medications was troubling to many of us.  Going off of medications can be achieved in a few cases of which I was aware, but I thought that the message was a bit dangerous.  There are so many people who stop taking their meds when they come into better health, only to relapse and have their symptoms return.  It seemed irresponsible to preach such a message, but here was PAN doing just that.

Still, there was another message that kept me from complaining, for the most part. At the beginning of each Connection support group meeting is read the Principles of Support, one of which affirms “We aim for better coping skills”.  In my mind, this means that NAMI does not push medications on anyone as the only solution to issues of mental illness.  Yes, there are many of us who are on meds, but that is only a part of the larger picture.  NAMI does not endorse any pharmaceutical product, but encourages the formation of coping skills that will sustain us through our mental health difficulties.  These can be in the form of mindfulness, meditation, exercise and spirituality, among others. 

In my personal experience, medication can work wonders in relieving symptoms, but it is still up to the individual to learn a better lifestyle supportive of mental health.  I have also known people who, over the course of their lifetimes have been able to find their way to independence from medications.  I might not choose to follow this path but I recognize it as a possibility.  Over time I have come to recognize that PAN does not urge people to stop medications per se, but that they advocate for choice, personal responsibility and individual paths to recovery, something with which I can agree and, I think, so can the NAMI organization at large.

Over the last few years I have seen the seed that Robyn and Donita planted grow into a flourishing organization.  I also witnessed Camille Jones’ leadership and eagerness to build an alliance with NAMI Northern Nevada.  There have been a few gaffes as we were coming to know each other as organizations, but in many cases they seemed to have resolved themselves.  Still, I felt mistrust.  Our organizations seemed to be in competition with each other and I feared that one of us might not survive the experience.  Then I remembered a bit more of my education in biology.

Think of vegetation in Nevada.  Here in Reno, I think that I can say that sage dominates the landscape, probably because it is the most competitive kind of plant life that can survive in this area of the Nevada climate.  Then there are the pine trees that live at higher altitudes.  Trees grow there in part because they have access to the water, snow and rain, falling there in the colder months.  Both kinds of vegetation do very well in their own areas, but their competition is not as direct as it could be.  They share the landscape and coexist.

So I believe that it can be with PAN.  NAMI’s mission is not the same as PAN’s.  We each have our own attraction for membership is mental health circles.  PAN primarily embraces peers, people living with mental illness, and they believe that a person’s own lived experience is the front door to recovery.  Their mission is to promote self-determination through peer support, community education, advocacy and empowerment.  PAN advocates for patients’ rights, but also works within the system to makes changes in services that are based on wellness and recovery.  They are an organization run by peers for peers, standing together in numbers, making individual voices be heard.
NAMI, on the other hand, strives to improve the quality of life for people living with mental illness through quality education programs and support groups as well as large and small scale works of advocacy.  NAMI seeks its membership from many sources, including family members, law enforcement and mental health professionals among others.  We work within the system, taking part in Crisis Intervention training for police officers, coaching individuals going through Mental Health Court and working with legislators and decision makers at every level.  At all times we seek to erase the stigma of mental illness and to promote positive change for people with mental illness and their families.
There is much overlap between the two groups in mission and membership, but I do not believe that there is any need for struggle between them. There are some points of philosophy on which we might never agree.  Still, when we need support, as when the legislature comes back into session, I hope we can count on PAN to show up in numbers.  There are NAMI people and there are PAN people. There are also many people who belong to both NAMI and PAN.  Together when we need to be, we can reach greater audiences and accomplish more than we could ever do separately.

                                     Gerald O’Brien, President
                                     NAMI Northern Nevada
Work and Mental Illness
by Brian Keefe

I am a member of NAMI, but I am also an employee.  There is an intersection between the two. 
Work has had a special meaning for me.   Beyond the income, a job meant that I had a place to go.   I was a part of the world and not isolated from it.  A job meant structure.  I had certain duties to fulfill.   I found this essential for using my time.  A job meant that I had more self-esteem.  I was doing something that received approval from society.

After going to law school, I changed careers and became a law librarian.  Still, I found sustaining work a challenge.  Holding a job meant meeting expectations not only about work performance but also about attitude and behavior. An article I read said that the happiest employees had three things in common.
  • First, they had good interpersonal relationships at work.  
  • Second, they had a commitment to the organization. 
  • Finally, they felt a sense of meaning or purpose at work.  
As I began searching for articles about dealing with work stress, I found ones discussing what things people could do to promote their mental health at work. One article listed these tips for coping.  The first was to initiate positive relationships at work.   The second was to exercise.   The third tip was to eat well. The next was to get enough sleep.  Then came prioritizing and organizing.   Finally, the article said that to be happy, people must break bad habits like perfectionism, negative thinking and worrying about the uncontrollable. 

Coping with depression is one of the more common mental health problems in the workplace.  An article from the University of Michigan gave several on-the-job strategies for doing this.  The first I thought was especially important.  Work should not take precedence over recovery.  Secondly, remember what is important about work.  Focus on the positive aspects of why  you work.   Next, don’t set yourself up by expecting perfection.  Fourth, don’t let the past define today or tomorrow.  Develop symptom-specific strategies.  Keep in mind that politics and personalities are part of working.   Finally, don’t go it alone.
Many articles I read focused on what the employer could do to create a mentally healthy work environment.  It was said that employers should foster a productive atmosphere.  They should pay a livable wage.  There should be reasonable accommodation of disabilities.  Health and wellness should be promoted.  There should be open communication between employees and the employer.   There needed to be both employee and management accountability.   Work/life balance is important.  There should be positive values in the workplace.   Emphasis should be placed on fitness.

While we cannot make the employer do those things needed for an emotionally healthy workplace, we can do such things for ourselves.  In doing them, while we promote our own emotional well-being, we also improve our performance and productivity at work.There may be a belief that simply by working longer hours we can improve productivity, but the truth is that only by taking care of ourselves emotionally can we do a good job and continue to do it.

                                                                                          Brian Keefe
Caring for people
Chelsea Sladek, The Bridge Church in Reno.

Editor's Note: The Bridge Church has been the site of NAMI Northern Nevada's monthly speaker meetings for several years. NAMI Northern Nevada is grateful for The Bridge's support of its activities in the region!

Sharing in the legacy of caring for the mentally ill is a privilege for The Bridge Church.  We have approximately 300-350 men, women and children in our building on a weekly basis, and if 1 in 5 adults suffers from mental illness in America, then rest assured we have families here who are impacted directly.  

Mental health support is important to us because of our faith, mission and vision!  Our mission is to build bridges for people to come to Jesus and grow in His grace, and we know that Jesus loved all people regardless of their mental condition or economic status.  Additionally, He gave us instructions to care for and share with those who have less, and therefore we must also model this behavior in our homes and in our daily lives.

Finally, our vision is to be highly valued by the unchurched for its commitment to its neighborhood, community and to the world and one of the ways that we do this, is to partner with organizations like NAMI, who are already doing incredibly valuable things for others, and to try to support them in their ongoing endeavors! 

Thank you for allowing us to partner with you; you’re making a difference in people’s lives! 
                               Chelsea Sladek
News from the Resource Center
Sue Brune

NAMI members Joe Tyler, Kathy Rusco and myself Sue Brune, are part of Connecton Recover Support Groups at the Tom Vetica Community Resource Center (Known as the Resource Center). Connection Recover Support Groups allow people living with with, or interacting with, loved one's mental health issues to learn from others' experiences, share coping strategies and offer each other encouragement and understanding. In addition, Project Restart at the Resource Center is an important service which helps provide people connections with social workers and training programs.

The Tom Vetica Resource Center helps people without a home to have an address, recieve messages and have mail delivery in addition to numerous other support services. For example, this August's calendar listed AA meetings, a Veterinary Clinic, Food Stamp outreach, SNAP Food stamp card, Medicaid Sign-Ups, HOPES testing, Amerigroup outreach, Parenting Wisely, Legal Services, a Notary and a Veteran's Resource. There are also classes for victims of violence crimes and help on money management.

On the wall are packets of information regarding food, financial aid, human resources, health care (including dental and vision), housing, shelters and employment and education.

Want to help the resource center? One way you can help is to take donations of socks, bottled water, lip sauve (chapstick), tooth brushes, paper, envelopes, stamps and reading glasses to the attendants behind the counter across from the mail room. (Tip: You can get reading glasses from the Dollar Store).


                                          Sue Brune
Two NAMI Northern Nevada volunteers with the NAMI Nevada State President at Macy's Shop For a Cause!
Upcoming Events
  • September 29th, 2016 - NAMI Monthly Speaker Event: "Integrated Care" - 6PM at The Bridge Church, 1331 Foster Dr., Reno, NV with Chuck Duarte.
  • October 6th, 2016 - NAMI State Meeting and fundraiser: The Nugget Casino and Resort. E-mail for more details!
  • October 15th - 29th - The NAMI Basics Class in Carson City, 10-4 PM. A three-session program on consecutive Saturdays designed for parents and other family caregivers of children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral difficulties. Taught by NAMI trained teachers
  • October  27th, 2016 NAMI Monthly Speaker Event: "Safe Relationships for People with Mental Illness" 6PM at The Bridge Church, 1331 Foster Dr., Reno, NV with Kelly Ranasinghe and Kirsten Hanson.
If you would like to contact NAMI Northern Nevada, feel free to reach out! You can e-mail us at, or message us on Facebook.
Copyright © 2016 NAMI Northern Nevada, All rights reserved.

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