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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Definition of Grit

I'm printing this with our longtime friend/fellow-blogger Rachael's permission. Though the walkathon is past, it still is a valid, worthy issue and support group called NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) about which we should know and support, with prayer and/or donations. As Rachael writes:
Awareness and education will play a big role in reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and lead towards a better understanding of mental illness and how it affects the lives of individuals and our families.
They are doing a great service, for women and men. And though it doesn't have anything to do with abortion, I'm putting it out here because neither we nor our readers are one-issue folk with blinders on. And because any of us could be, could have been, maybe even were, in Rachael's shoes. She has grit and guts, to overcome this, and then, by another order of magnitude, to write about this publicly. I daresay I wouldn't have the same.
Dear Friends,

This year I'm participating in "NAMI Walks for the Mind of America" an awareness/fundraising walkathon for mental illness.

Millions of Americans, including an estimated one in five families are affected by mental illness: severe depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic & anxiety disorders and others. Mental illness is a biologically based brain disorder, which disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Just as diabetes or heart disease, mental illness is a medical condition, which often results in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. These individuals are your neighbors, your fellow church members, and your co-workers, maybe even a family member. For some, an experience with mental illness is short, say Seasonal Affective Disorder. For others, it is a lifelong struggle to understand, overcome, and live with persistent and unpredictable symptoms.

I am one of such individuals with a mental illness. My struggle with major depression began during my first year at college. Unable to complete school at this time, I returned home and was fortunate to have wonderful support from my parents, family, boyfriend, and his family . I was started on an anti-depressant and worked through the spring and summer. By the fall, I felt my depressive symptoms were under control and I was ready to return to college. I erolled at Vincennes University, a small, two year college which has a reputation to have excellent academic support program for those with disabilities. I completed one and a half years of college and was half-way towards earning my associate's degree before returning home again due to worsening symptoms. After returning home, I lost my health insurance coverage, because I was no longer a college student and was unable to obtain private insurance because the depressive condition was pre-existing. Anti-depressant therapy costs upward of $60-$200 depending on the medications and therapy can cost upwards of $90-150 a session. I gritted my teeth and continued to pay for my medication out of my own pockets, however therapy was out of reach. Fortuantly, in the fall of 2005, I discovered our local community mental health clinic. Clinics such as these are an important part of our community, offering vital mental health services at low-cost and sliding-fee-scale to the homeless, impoverished, uninsured, and underinsured of our community. Most people with serious mental illness need medication to help control symptoms, but also rely on supportive counseling, self-help groups, assistance with housing, vocational rehabilitation, income assistance and other community services in order to achieve their highest level of recovery. At the clinic, I was able to see a therapist for cogntive therapy in addition to a nurse practioner for medication. However, like many community mental health clinics, they are under-staffed and poorly funded, which can result in a low quality of care. This is why I became involved in NAMI.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The common message of NAMI is support, education, advocacy, and research. NAMI helps in many ways:
  • It provides support to persons with mental illnesses and their families
  • It advocates for improved opportunities and for non-discriminatory policies for housing, rehabilitation and meaningful jobs
  • It supports research
  • It supports public education programs designed to help educate and remove stigma surrounding severe mental illness

    On June 9, 2007, I will be participating in the NAMI Indiana Walk, the local "NAMI Walks for the Mind of America" walkathon to raise awareness about mental illness, reach out to new families, and to raise money for support and education in our local communities. Our team, which is named "Footsteps" is comprised of individuals whose lives have been directly impacted by mental illness, either through a family member or spouse. And we have chosen this team name because we are walking together to take Footsteps towards hope, awareness, and education. Please visit for more information about the Indiana WALK, or follow this direct link: to make a donation specifically in my name. (You will be taken to a secure form, as when you pay bills online, and the site will not disclose your personal information for any mailing lists or unauthorized purposes). If you prefer to send a check, please make it out to NAMI Indiana and send it to my home address (please e-mail me for my address). I'll collect and submit all donations. Personally I'm contributing $25, and my goal is to build a team of at least 7 people and raise $500. Please let me know if I can provide you with any more information about mental health or mental illness, in Indiana or in your own community. Thank you!

    Rachael S.
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