Rough draft of of speech to be given by DJ Jaffe at NAMI Convention July 28, 2017

I am DJ Jaffe author of Insane Consequences, and I’m running on the “Focus on Serious Mental Illness” ticket with Lauren Rettagliata, Mary Zdanowicz, and Robert Laitman.  I have a family member who suffers from schizophrenia so this is all very personal to me.

NAMI was founded to help the seriously mentally ill who suffer and local affiliates and states still do through programs like Family to Family.

But recently NAMI told the media to not use the word suffering when describing the mentally ill.

Why? Because in the last several years, NAMI National decided to expand its mission beyond the seriously ill who do suffer to anyone who has any mild mental health issue.  Essentially, NAMI National has decided to duplicate Mental Health America.

I think this is wrong. Indeed, the entire premise of my book is that we spend too much on mental health and not enough on mental illness.

That is wrong and we at NAMI should fix it.

Most of us here, are connected to serious mental illness, not to some mild mental wellness issue.

We spend around $200 billion on all sorts of mental health conditions, yet three million of most seriously ill still get zero treatment.

That is wrong and we at NAMI should fix it.

It is the seriously ill who need help the most. 140,000 are homeless and 392,000 are behind bars.

That is wrong and we at NAMI should fix it.

We all know the mental health community wraps programs to improve grades, eliminate divorce, reduce bullying, and lots more, in a mental health narrative so they can divert mental illness funds to them.

That is wrong and we at NAMI should fix it.

Throwing more money at mental health, is not the same as delivering treatment to the seriously ill.

For example, the seriously ill need hospitals, Assisted Outpatient Treatment, and group homes. The higher functioning do not. Expanding our mission may get us a few more members but to make room, we’ve kicked the seriously ill out of the tent.

That is wrong and we at NAMI should fix it.

The mental health community claims ‘stigma’ is the major barrier to care. Nonsense!  Every mom here knows anosognosia–having a relative who doesn’t believe he is ill, is a far greater barrier to care than stigma. So is the lack of programs, the lack of doctors, clubhouses, transportation, and the high cost of treatment.

Stigma has become the black hole of advocacy diverting thousands of advocates away from fighting for what’s really needed.

That is wrong, and we at NAMI should fix it.

Because NAMI expanded it’s mission, NAMI now claims that the mentally ill are no more violent than others rather than, –as we used to do, recognize that when the seriously mentally ill go untreated they are more violent.  If we won’t admit to violence, we’re not going to reduce it. This year, NAMI lobbied to make it easier for the seriously mentally ill to buy guns.

That is wrong.

NAMI should confront SAMHSA, Bazelon and Protection and Advocacy lawyers who believe being psychotic is a civil right to be protected. They support laws requiring our loved ones to become danger to self or others before they can be treated. That’s ludicrous. Laws should prevent violence not require it.

The mental health community is focused on training police, starting mental health courts and improving care behind bars. They’re important but the reason police, courts and corrections step in is because the mental health system is refusing to treat the seriously ill.

That is what NAMI should be fixing.

NAMI’s strategic priority is now far beyond First Episode Psychosis and encompasses all youth with all issues. So I ask? Who is working for housing for adults? Ensuring treatment for adult illnesses like bipolar and schizophrenia? Eliminating the HIPAA Handcuffs and the IMD Exclusion?

I love NAMI. I served two terms on the board in the 1990s.  We don’t need another Mental Health America, we need a NAMI to send the seriously ill to the head of the line for services so they don’t go to jails shelters prisons and morgues.

Vote for the Focus on Serious Mental Illness ticket because we’ll work with NAMI to fix that.