Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Happens in Class, Stays in Class

With the next round of NAMI Utah’s class for teens, Progression, coming up, you may ask yourself – “why should I sign up? Why should I go if my parents aren’t dragging me?” And to that, I say, “Dude, you are missing out!” Progression is a great class where you can learn about dealing with your problems instead of just letting them drag you through life, all while being taught by teachers who have been there, and been there recently. No detention or quizzes here; just real talk from people who have dealt with what you’re dealing with, and people who are honest, open, and unashamed of their experiences. These teachers will give you
the tools to be proactive about your illness instead of just letting it rule your life. Oh, and did I mention we have an opportunity for you to meet other people your age that are dealing with the same problems? There is no judgment in Progression, and everything you tell the class is confidential. I call it “The Vegas Rule” – what’s said in class, stays in class. What could be better than that?

I haven’t yet mentioned my personal favorite part of Progression – they have been coined “Emotional First-Aid Kits” but I personally thought the name could use a change, so every class gets to call it what they want. What is an “Emotional First-Aid Kit”, you might be asking? These Kits are small boxes that you decorate with supplies we provide, and fill with things that make you feel better when you’re down. Love listening to some smooth R&B jams to chill you out? Pop that iPod in the box! Is a bubble bath more your speed? Tuck a few bottles away in the box! Snuggly stuffed animal from your younger days your go-to? Put that little critter in his new home! These Kits, like Progression, are all about you – how your mind works, how to cope, how to communicate, how to just be you. And you, you will find out, are pretty darn rad – illness or not.

To sign up for Progression, call NAMI Utah at (801) 323-9900. Progression, like all of our classes and support groups, is totally FREE! (And totally awesome, I might add.)

Erin is a Whole Health Care Manager and Mentor at NAMI Utah and is a teacher, teacher trainer, and state trainer for Progression, having taught nearly a dozen classes and trained many people both in Utah and Minnesota in the Progression program. She also likes to think she is pretty cool – most days!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Brian Daniel Wynn 1975-2012

A message from Dan and Alice Wynn, who gathered donations for NAMI Utah from friends and family in honor of their son, Brian Daniel Wynn:

With rising recognition and emphasis being placed on mental illness and many related tragedies taking place across our country every day, we have collected donations for NAMI in memory of our son, Brian Daniel Wynn, who passed away unexpectedly on February 13, 2012 due to complications arising from mental illness and addiction. Brian, a very kind and soft spoken spirit, often displayed a sincere concern for other who were struggling or in need. However, in the end, he could not overcome his own trial and demons and was unable to obtain the treatment he needed in a timely manner, which may have saved his life. 

Thank you for your dedication to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. 
Dan and Alice Wynn

Dan and Alice, thank you for your donation and most importantly, thank you for your willingness to raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide. We have no doubt that Brian would be proud of the work you are doing! Stay strong, continue to shed light on these issues and take care of yourselves and each other. Remember that you are not alone!
Thank you so much,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Running Down Stigma: Michael's Story

In 2008 Michael Runningwolf was diagnosed with a severe mental illness known as Paranoid Schizophrenia. Although this illness has made life difficult for Michael, he says the most crippling of all things was the stigma attached to his illness. Michael now runs races to help erase the stigma of mental illness and raises funds for mental health organizations. Michael will be running the Santa Barbara International Marathon on November 9, 2013 in support of NAMI Utah. Check out his website by clicking HERE.

We had the opportunity to ask Michael a few questions. Here's what he had to say:

1.) Where did you seek help when you first received a diagnosis? 

When I first received my diagnosis, I was told that I needed to go to a psychiatric hospital so I could get the proper care I needed. I was not educated about mental illness at that time and I had no idea where to reach out for help. At the same time, most of the people in my life were distancing themselves from me and I felt very alone and scared. I found a local NAMI office in Boise Idaho and they helped me with information but I was struggling and it wasn’t long before I found myself hospitalized again and then I found myself incarcerated into the jails psychiatric unit.

2.) Tell us about your first involvement with NAMI.

The first time I found NAMI was in Idaho, but the first time I really found NAMI was when I moved to Phoenix Arizona. I went to visit them and found a home, they let me volunteer there and I found a family that supported me any way they could. I started to volunteer about two hours a week, and before I knew it I was volunteering forty hours a week before and more because I believed in what NAMI was doing and also it felt wonderful to get up every morning and have someplace to go and to know I was helping others. They saved my life, they helped me find my purpose and meaning and they did it without ever asking who my insurance provider was or what could I pay. They were my saving grace and I owe NAMI everything for what they did for me. They helped me learn about my illness, they put me in the NAMI classes, they believed in me, and they taught me that I was not alone. Without NAMI, I am not sure I would have survived it all.

3.) How has running helped you in your recovery?

It has given me a purpose, I run to break down the barriers of mental illness. When you run a 26.2 mile race and you complete with the other runners, you show that people with a diagnosis can go the distance too. Also, I hear things that others don’t and see things that others don’t and when I run, I think it releases serotonin and that gives the illness a real beating! I like to say I can drop my voices at mile five because they can’t keep up. It is my best medicine to fight them; it is my best coping skill. When I run I am free, I know I can use it to help with the symptoms and the weight gain that comes from taking psychiatric medications. In addition, running has been tool for me in breaking down stigma because I can take it to the general population and get it out to the communities, to the people who rarely ever think of mental illness except when it makes headlines because of an incident. It is my way to speak to the world, that we are people too, and we too can go the extra mile.

 4.) What were some important resources for you during your journey with mental illness? 

NAMI classes, NAMI library, and the folks at NAMI with their vast amount of knowledge and caring. They helped me navigate a system that is not easy to navigate; they helped me understand the steps to take to get what I needed. A Another important resource was my psychiatrist who actually listened to me and supported me in my healing. I am also on SMI (serious mentally ill) probation and my probation officer Doug is a huge support for me and makes it possible for me to travel and run.

5.) Do you have any advice for others seeking treatment? 

Yes, contact your local NAMI, contact them and work with them, they can be your greatest source of information and understanding. Enroll in the NAMI classes and meet other peers that struggle with psychiatric challenges. Always hope, never give up, and when you find what works for you, never stop doing what works. And share and support others when you can, giving back is empowering and when you feel empowered you have the energy and motivation to keep going strong!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Alissa's Story

This is a story of recovery from a woman named Alissa who took the NAMI Utah BRIDGES class (a free 12-week education class for individuals living with mental illness). As of this weekend, she is now a certified BRIDGES teacher!! Congratulations Alissa and thank you for sharing your story and teaching others that, "recovery is worth fighting for."

“My recovery is an ongoing project, as I imagine it always will be. That being said, I am healthier today, both physically and mentally, than I have been in over a decade. I have been in what one would call “recovery” for about 6 years now. I take my meds every day, and I follow a strict and healthy diet (low sugars, no caffeine or alcohol). I have even been able to hold down jobs (which is a big deal for me). My outlook on life has changed dramatically over the years. I live my life striving for positivity and optimism each day. Still, I do have a brain disorder, and I understand that it takes a daily effort to monitor myself and keep myself healthy. I have a great “med-manager”, an APRN who keeps an eye on me and works with me to help me feel as balanced as possible. I am very lucky to be where I am today. I know that I could have slipped through the cracks and become a statistic very easily. Without a strong support system of family, friends and medical professionals, I can say I probably would not be the happy and healthy person I am today. I know that I will never be “cured” of my brain disorder, but I have stopped wishing for a cure. I see my “illness” as a blessing. It has given me insight into so many things. Having a chronic illness has given me a level of empathy for others I couldn’t have gained any other way. Most importantly, being diagnosed with Bipolar II has given me something I never knew I had; the spirit of a fighter. I have had to fight to find my recovery. I want to show others that they have that spirit in them as well. Recovery is worth fighting for. It can take years, but ultimately it is so worth it. I am proof.”

For a schedule of FREE classes and support groups in your area click HERE.  

Alissa at the Eiffel Tower. The trip, she says, wouldn't have been possible before her recovery.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

We all have a story to share! What is yours?

Throughout May we will be posting personal and family stories of hope and recovery. If you would like to share your story with us send an e-mail to Mary:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Should You Give to NAMI Utah?

This Friday, March 22nd, NAMI Utah is participating in the Love UT Give UT 1st Annual Day of Giving across the state of Utah. Over 500 non-profit organizations are participating in this unprecedented day of giving. With so many non-profits needing your funds and requesting a $10 or more donation this Friday, we wanted to give you some reasons to donate to NAMI Utah. One in four of us are affected by a mental health disorder. Whether you live with a mental illness, you have a family member or loved one who lives with a mental illness, or you just stumbled upon this blog, here are some reasons to donate:

1.) NAMI Utah provides FREE support groups and education classes across the state of Utah to individuals living with a mental illness as well as families and loved ones. In order to make these classes free, we rely on donations to print materials, recruit volunteers and train teachers and facilitators.

2.) NAMI Utah is a huge advocate for mental health during the legislative session. NAMI is recognized as the preeminent voice in Utah for all Utahans impacted by mental illness. NAMI advocates have fought for policy changes that raise the bar on mental health treatment and educate our lawmakers on the lived experience of mental illness.

3.) NAMI Utah KNOWS what you're going through. Our mentors answer phone calls Monday- Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. talking to individuals who have a variety of needs such as housing, discounted medications, mental health treatment resources. Our mentors also provide a listening ear for individuals with a current or new diagnosis who don't know where to turn or need some encouragement to get them through the day.

4.) Our classes are taught by individuals with the lived experience of a mental illness. They've been there, they are in recovery and they know what you're going through.

5.) NAMI Utah provides a weekly Social Group where individuals come to have sandwiches and get support from their peers. You can learn more about social group HERE.

6.) NAMI Utah holds the largest mental health awareness event in Utah, the NAMIWalks. Click HERE to watch the video featuring our 2011 Walk.

7.) Early Intervention is crucial! NAMI Utah participates in many early intervention programs including the Family Resource Facilitator project as well as the school-based mental health program called Hope for Tomorrow. This program talks to students about mental health issues, helps erase the stigma of mental illness, and fosters hope among students and their families.

8.) The NAMI Provider Education Program is a 5-week course that presents a penetrating, subjective view of family and consumer experiences with serious mental illness to staff at public and private agencies, who work directly with people experiencing severe and persistent mental illnesses.

9.) We have recently expanded our Diversity Outreach efforts and have classes in Spanish for both family members and individuals! We have a support group for the LGBT community and we recently completed a support group for the refugee community.

10.) If you've taken one of our classes, participated in a support group or any of our other programs, you have been impacted by NAMI and we need your support! So many individuals who take our classes are forever changed by the content discussed and the community that results from sharing stories, and a shared understanding of the journey towards recovery.

These are just 10 reasons to donate to NAMI Utah, we can think of so many more! Have you been impacted by NAMI in some way?! Make sure you share YOUR reason to give with your friends, family,  co-workers, and strangers! If you give on Friday, your donation will be matched, up to $2,000. An even better reason to give! Every $10 donation counts!

HERE is the link to our fundraising page.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Running from Crazy: Film Review

Running From Crazy is a film recently released at the Sundance Film Festival. It documents Mariel Hemingway’s exploration of the mental illness that has plagued her family and the suicide that has claimed seven of their lives. Her personal struggles along with the death of family members including her grandfather, famed writer Ernest Hemingway and sister, supermodel/actress Margaux Hemingway leads Mariel to seek answers. Is her family cursed? Or is there hope?

Spoiler alert, there is hope! Through exploration and understanding of her families’ complex history she is able to find her path to acceptance and recovery. She learns to forgive her family for their imperfections and embrace the positive things they stood for. She talks about how important it is for her to reject alcohol in light of her family history of addiction. She explores the importance of nutrition, exercise, and overall wellness in her life and advocates for the incorporation of wellness in mental health treatment.

Photo from the Running from Crazy Facebook Page
Most importantly she learns how important it is to talk about mental illness and suicide. She talks to her daughters about their family history and the anxiety and fear for their well being. She talks to the community about mental illness and suicide prevention and how important it is to be open and willing to ask questions- the questions that are hard and maybe we don’t want to know the answer to because it might be scary. Scary, but important. Those questions and that support might be the lifeline someone needs. We need to bring mental illness out of the shadows. We need to talk about it.

Here at NAMI Utah, we too understand the importance of talking about mental health and fighting stigma. We advocate for access to effective treatment and equality in all aspects of life. We work to provide information and education about mental illness so we and our loved ones are no longer misunderstood. We work to provide networks of support for those impacted by mental illness. We, along with Mariel Hemingway, know that there is hope. For information on NAMI Utah and to find support in your area, click here.

Did you see Running From Crazy? Share your thoughts!