Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Mental illness is not a communicable disease", Dante Murry's support for HB65

I'm honored to share a guest blog post written by Dante Murry, regarding his support of HB65 and how treatment and NAMI has saved his life. Thank you Dante for your advocacy, bravely and for your time to help others understand the importance of treatment before tragedy, GGB.

Hello my name is Dante Murry, I have been an advocate for National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI, for 7 years.
Before I gave my support for House Bill 65, I asked many questions to gain a clear understanding because as a consumer, I felt that NAMI Louisville members needed to question policies and have accountability for those we represent. 
After reviewing all the facts, it was only logical for me to support HB65.  I felt joy in my heart, as I witnessed HB65 being passed "unanimously" out of House and Welfare Committee on Thursday, February 12th. I feel very strongly about the many provisions and protections for the person’s afflicted with acute mental illnesses and those who endure the daunting task of caring for their children, fathers, mothers, or friends with severe symptoms of anosognosia.

I know that mental health advocates like Dr.  Sheila Shuster, GG Burns, Representative Tom Burch, Sarah Kidder and others are working with legislators in Kentucky to change the nature of assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), the process by which a court orders a patient to follow a treatment plan while living in the community, instead of a residential treatment facility.

As I understand, Kentucky already has an AOT statute that is relatively narrow in its scope and requires a high threshold for establishing a court-approved treatment plan. Chairman Tom Burch of Louisville, has proposed a bill that would make it possible for family members and mental health professionals to get comprehensive and effective treatment before tragedy in the community for people suffering from severe and persistent mental illnesses.

HB65 will provide an avenue for families to get help for their loved ones during the darkest times of their lives.

From my personal experience, families often feel like they have no options and are not receiving enough help from doctors, the legal system, and other community mental health agencies.

I really believe that HB65 is the best overall course of treatment for loved ones suffering from acute mental illnesses and should be heard in the Kentucky Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

My personal story with mental illness began at Wellstone in 2005. This was a traumatic experience for me and my family. Before I experienced my psychotic episode, I worked at a large corporate company full time for over 12 years. I was involved in my faith, volunteered at the YMCA youth programs, and attended Webster University to complete my dual masters program (Human Resources and Management Leadership). My experiences opened my eyes to the possibility that any of us could be afflicted with mental health issues.

Stigma was also a new experience for me because unlike racism, this new prejudice comes from all sides of humanity. I found myself hitting a glass ceiling and was placed in a job position of isolation from my peers. I was encouraged to work odd hours (twilight from Thursday to Monday).

I felt like I had been quarantined. It seemed that most people believe that if you quarantine the mentally ill from the masses, the illness will not spread. Mental illness is not a communicable disease.

My purpose is not only to bring mental health care deficiencies to the fore; it’s the issue of continued education and “recovery” methods. I especially believe that minorities in Kentucky are suffering from a lack of education and health care services, thus making up the largest incarceration population in the Louisville Metro Area.

Honestly, education about mental health illness is seldom discussed in the African American community. As an African American consumer, my real opportunity to learn about my illness started with an organization named NAMI . My father and mother struggled with understanding my mental illness. I didn’t understand it either. Family to Family Support programs helped me and my parents to forge a new bond. The bond resulted in a better understanding about my illness and its effects. Unfortunately, most families are ignorant about mental health issues until it comes to their front porch.

Louisville Kentucky prison system examined in PBS film

It’s very humbling to gain the rich education I have earned, and then get diagnosed with a mental illness. I earned a Masters degree in Human Resources and Management Leadership at Webster University, a bachelor degree from the University of Louisville, and an Associate’s degree in Industrial Engineering Technology from JCTC. In addition, I fulfilled my seven year enlistment with the U.S. Army, concluding my service with an Honorable Discharge as a sergeant before I became ill.

I have coped with the realities of my disorders while recovering and reclaiming a productive life with meaning and dignity. I want to share the ups and downs of my recovery and help others to learn from my experiences (does and don’ts). I have been empowered by NAMI volunteering opportunities, NAMI support groups like Connection, mental health conferences, and Peer-to-Peer classes of which I have facilitated as a Mentor.

One of my success stories is that I am now a certified Kentucky Peer Support Specialist. Personally, I never thought a recovery process could help me with my mental illness. It is a long, difficult journey each day dealing with mental illness. I can relate to others because I live it each day. In my opinion, each consumer needs to feel that there is hope and support for their recovery process by hearing and seeing positive experiences.

NAMI has been such a positive impact on me that I was nominated to be a NAMI Louisville board member in 2014. As a result of the NAMI Peer to Peer Mentor training, I was able to prepare myself to enter into the workforce. Currently, I work part-time for Seven Counties Services as a Peer Support Specialist. I believe that the NAMI training program called IOOV (In Our Own Voice) prepared me to speak publicly to large audiences like the Story Slam Competition by Actors Theater in Louisville, KY. I believe that the NAMI support groups were instrumental in building my confidence and dignity as a person.

I am NOT my illness, I just have an illness!  With treatment, my illness is manageable, allowing me to enjoy my life in the community.

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