Been Busy

Friday: Attended NAMI Advocacy Training. Saturday: Prepared parents' income tax return. Sunday: Finished our income tax return. Monday AM: Fed son & got him to school.

No wonder I’m exhausted! Friday I attended a NAMI California Regional Meeting in which we participated in NAMI Smarts for Advocacy Training.

NAMI Smarts for Advocacy is a hands-on advocacy training program that helps people living with mental illness, friends and family transform their passion and lived experience into skillful grassroots advocacy.

Basically, we learned how to turn our story of lived experience with mental illness into a two-minute pitch to ASK for specific change, such as voting for or against a particular piece of legislation, on behalf of those of us with lived mental health experiences.

BREAK & UPDATE

[Had to go pick up my son from school… He made it through two hours… Now back home sick to his stomach, needing to be in close proximity to a bathroom… Even took him to an acupuncturist last week hoping for an answer, a fix… Beginning of June have appointment with pediatric gastroenterologist… Poor kid.]

Here’s my scribbled and scrawled practice sheets:

Kitt O'Malley's Story Practice Sheet for NAMI Smarts Advocacy Training. Basically illegible handwriting. I will try to decipher in the text that follows.

So, my notes are not exactly neat and tidy. Here’s my transcription of them for those who cannot read them (I know I can’t):

My Introduction

Hello, I’m Kitt O’Malley from Mission Viejo, CA. I’m a member of NAMI Orange County, CA, part of America’s largest grassroots mental health organization, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I’d like to share my story with you and ask for your support of [ASK – here I would ask for something specific in support of those living with mental illness and their families].

What Happened

I was an honors biochem student at UCLA when I became suicidal. I had high hopes of someday becoming a neurosurgeon, but had to quit UCLA due to my illness. I still managed to get an education and become an LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) in my 20’s. Over the years I was treated for depression using psychotherapy and antidepressants. My work history during these years was one of many starts and stops, constantly overworking until I again became depressed. Finally, at the age of 39, it became clear that I had bipolar disorder. Still, I tried balancing the demands of coping with bipolar disorder with parenting and working in commercial real estate. By the time I was 41, I was hospitalized for a breakdown.

What Helped

A combination of medication, supportive psychotherapy, and the support of my family, especially my husband, enabled me to achieve stability. I benefited from excellent hospital and partial hospitalization programs in which group activities offered both structure and peer support.

How I’m Different Today

Today I am an active mental health advocate through my volunteer work with NAMI and through the use of social media, including blogging. I have found purpose in this work, even if I’m no longer making the big bucks.

What is the Need or the Problem?

Far too many people do not receive the treatment that I sought and received.

What Will Help Others

We need public education to fight stigma which keeps people from seeking help, and better day programs and hospital programs for those living with serious mental illness.

My “ASK”

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me. Can I count on you to [ASK – here I would ask for something specific in support of those living with mental illness and their families]? Thank you.


Orange County Health Care Agency Behavioral Health

After this training, four Orange County Mental Health/Behavioral Health Directors gave presentations on the services provided by the county, including those programs made possible through the California Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Then we broke into four groups, each group meeting with one of the four county mental health leaders, and had the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback as stakeholders in mental health services.

Thank you, Mary Hale, Deputy Agency Director Orange County Health Care Agency Behavioral Health Services, Jeffrey Nagel, PhDMental Health Services Act (MHSA) Coordinator, Anthony Delgado, LCSWAdult & Older Adult MHSA FSP Programs, and Jason Austin, MA, LMFTBehavioral Health Services Navigation Administrative Manager.

Orange County Behavioral Health Information & Referrals 855-OC-Links (625-4657) or TDD Number: 714-834-2332

855-OC-LINKS [625-4657]  (8 am – 6 pm)
TDD Number: 714-834-2332 (8 am – 6 pm)
OC Links LIVE CHAT at ochealthinfo.com/bhs/about/pi/oclinks (8 am – 6 pm)

Unlocking the Mind #Writing101

How to get at the good stuff? Cannot even think of a better word for stuff! Yes, I can look for a word using a thesaurus, which I probably will end up doing. But, for now, I’m very simply frustrated, for my mind has either been erased or is under lock and key. I’m reminded of what happens when I cannot recall a password and try time and time again to log on. After multiple tries, I’m locked out. No longer can I access a wealth of information at my fingertips. Locked out.

Writing 101 First Assignment

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

Caveat: I must admit I edited what I wrote in the 20 minutes. Just cannot keep myself from rewriting…

Since I already started writing and making an image for this assignment before I had even started the assignment, I guess I cheated. I also thought about what I was going to write and how I was going to go about it. Once again, not the assignment. Basically I saw myself writing with interruptions. Interruptions because the dogs miss me, though they are sleeping on the floor right now. Interrupted expecting my son to ask for something, yet he now remains ensconced in the guest room playing Xbox. He asked both last night and this morning whether and when I’d move the TV into his room because my sister and her family are visiting us tonight and tomorrow. But, they won’t be here until well after dinner, so we have plenty of time.

I imagined that my writing would somehow reflect my hypomanic mind. My mind is racing, but my writing tends (for the most part) to be organized. One reason is that I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. Not for this project. This is stream of consciousness writing (I guess). Actually, I do not recall the exact meaning of stream of consciousness writing. Sounds rather hoity toity and intellectual. This exercise and fingers flying discussing the mundane feels more like what the assignment calls free writing.

Okay, first interruption, quickly ignored. Poodle Coco nudged my left arm with his nose. He wanted to be pet. No pets right now. I’m FREE WRITING. I’m being quite writerly. He circles me like a great white shark circling its prey, and then settles for kibble.

This morning I took a break – an interruption after my initial writing and before I copied and pasted the actual writing assignment up above. During that break I went to my local Starbucks to meet up with a fellow NAMI volunteer, mental health advocate and mental health provider. Starbucks was crowded and loud, so I invited her over to my house. As it’s messy and filthy, I’m actually proud of myself. Usually I’m too ashamed to have company over.

My timer just went off. 20 minutes are up.

Stuck to the Couch

Kitt Stuck to Couch

Another brief update as I’m taking it easy, trying to get myself over yet another bout of gastroenteritis. (I do not suffer nearly as much as my son does, but it has me struck me down, glued to the couch, not wanting to stand or make any sudden movements.) Anyway… This upcoming weekend I am training with NAMI to become a Provider Educator, that is one of their panel members who teach mental health providers what it is like to live with a mental illness or be a family member of someone living with a mental illness. Since I’ve been licensed in California as a Marriage and Family Therapist (back in the day the license was MFCC for Marriage, Family and Child Counselor) dating back to July 1990, even though I haven’t practiced in over twenty years, I attended the training as a provider (and hopeful future NAMI provider trainer) and received FREE (yahoo! free!) continuing education units (CEUs) towards my license renewal. What a deal! Usually you have to pay for CEUs. You wonder what I’ve done in the last twenty years, if not psychotherapy. Well, heck, go check out my LinkedIn profile.

NAMI Advocacy Update: December 2014

December 19, 2014 email entitled NAMI Advocacy Update: December 2014

Congressional Budget Bill a Mixed Bag

This past weekend Congress passed the “Continuing Resolution – Omnibus” spending bill (HR 83) for the remaining months of fiscal year 2015 which runs through Sept. 30, 2015. The measure is now waiting for the President’s signature. This bill contains good news and bad news for mental health. The good news: HR 83 provides a small increase in funding for mental illness research. Bad news: the bill includes a small reduction for mental health services.

Read more.

Mental Health Investment By States Slowed in 2014

NAMI just released a report highlighting what went on in state legislatures in 2014 across the country when it comes to mental health issues. The report, State Mental Health Legislation 2014 shows that investment in mental health services slowed from last year and that when progress was made around specific policy issues much of the legislation felt like it only skimmed the surface.

Read more.

Write to your Governor and State Legislators! Urge them to make mental health care a priority. Click here to send a message.

NAMI Submits Comments on NIMH Strategic Plan 

On December 11, NAMI submitted comments on the proposed five-year plan for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The plan includes a range of ambitious goals for mental illness research including:

  • Defining the biological basis of complex behaviors.
  • Charting mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene.
  • Striving for prevention and cures.
  • Strengthening the public health impact of NIMH-supported research.

View NAMI’s comments on the NIMH 2015 Strategic Plan.

View the NIMH Strategic Plan.

Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill Fails, but Mental Health Screenings for Active Duty Passes

Legislation to bolster veterans’ suicide prevention has failed in Congress after outgoing Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) placed a hold on it. Known as the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (HR 5059), the $22 million bill would increase access to mental health care and expand the VA workforce. Coburn said the bill d uplicates existing VA efforts, but NAMI will work with other advocacy organizations to work towards its reintroduction and passage in the next Congress.

At the same, Congress did include an important new set of requirements for the Department of Defense (DoD) to undertake annual mental health screenings for Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve service members as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (HR 4435). This legislation has cleared both houses of Congress and will soon be signed into law by the President.

The final agreement on the defense bill includes a Senate provision – sponsored by Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) – that requires DoD to provide a person-to-person mental health assessment for Active Duty and Selected Reserve members each year. The amendment would also require the Secretary, through 2018, to provide person-to-person mental health screenings once during each 180-day period in which a member is deployed.

Happy holidays! We grateful for your advocacy year-round!