Sunday, June 11, 2017

Another Response RE: NAMI's BIG Tent vs Small Tent by Jeffery L. Hayden, Ph.D.

This is another well written response regarding NAMI's "big tent" vs "small tent" controversy that began when NAMI's President, Steve Pitman, issued a letter to state and local NAMI organizations describing his view of the past, current and the future state of NAMI. 

I am sharing Jeffery's response to Pete Earley, with his permission as other national Mental Illness Reform advocates have. 

Dear Pete,

This is in response to your recent post, “One Tent, Not Two: NAMI’s Future Role In Our Lives.” 

(One Tent, Not Two: NAMI’s Future Role In Our Lives)

While in principle I agree with your statement, “There should be ‘one tent’ with enough seats inside it for different points of view,” I do not believe this will be possible until NAMI dedicates itself to following science and advocating for the treatments and supports that science provides evidence for.

As long as NAMI continues to seek the “middle ground,” hoping to frustrate as few people as possible, there will always be an “us” vs. “them”, and never a “we.” This is a political position that, though may help increase membership, does not serve those with mental illnesses or their families well. What other illness-advocacy group provides information based on a consensus of its members rather than the best available scientific evidence?

A perfect example of this is Assisted Outpatient Treatment. 

"The preponderance of scientific evidence clearly supports AOT as an effective, evidence-based strategy that results in reduced homelessness, incarceration, and contact with emergency services for those who need this level of intervention."

Despite this, does NAMI National provide full-throated endorsement of AOT? No. Why? Because a significant number of members, many of whom would not qualify for AOT, claim it violates their civil rights.

There are also service providers who follow the “Recovery Model” that object to AOT. Their reasons are likely numerous and varied. However, my strong suspicion is that among the top reason is the fear that AOT services would siphon money away from the established “recovery” programs.

For those with serious mental illnesses and their families, the Recovery Model is a pipe dream. Their illnesses are so severe that they cannot “volunteer” for services, which is a prerequisite for the vast majority of Recovery programs. If people are not able to volunteer for treatment, what does NAMI National have to offer?

Mental illnesses include a vast array of conditions that impact the health, welfare, and quality of life for those who suffer. Fortunately, science provides information (i.e., evidence) that can inform the development of treatments that will mitigate the symptoms that negatively impact the lives of those who are diagnosed. If NAMI National committed to following the science, it could truly be a resource for all who are challenged with a mental illness condition. If it fails to make this commitment, it will continue to be a divided organization that will have decreasing relevance for those for whom is was originally established to support.

Having “one tent with enough seats” for everyone to sit does nothing if you never get a seat at the table.

Thank you for all you do,

Jeffery L. Hayden, Ph.D.

Teresa Pasquin shares the speech of Mary Zdanowitcz, another NAMI candidate who is part of the "Focus on Serious Mental Illness" ticket, which I also endorse. Read more here and see links to videos here:

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