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Sometimes, cry for help isn’t heard

By Deby Dihoff
NAMI-NC
We at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) North Carolina share in everyoneís sadness and frustration over the Arizona tragedy. Most importantly, we are thinking of the families of the six individuals who did not survive the tragedy, and for the l3 who are still recovering. Our national office and Mental Health America have both issued informative statements that underscore that the likelihood of violence from people with mental illness is low; but the violence itself is a sign that something has gone terribly wrong.
Our society is so litigious ó we all listen to the news and hear why it is not the responsibility of various parties to have done more. Weíre all frustrated because we donít know what to do. Why not think differently about this? Letís instead offer some solace and help in the face of a senseless tragedy. This approach might help prevent further acts of violence. Even preventing just one would make it all worthwhile. Here are some suggestions for what to do if you meet someone you feel needs help:
Ask the person how they are feeling and offer your help.
Keep asking, talking and offering help. Donít give up!
Speak to the family; offer family counseling and hope.
Make a referral for help; offer a recommendation, as you would with someone with any new diagnosis.
Follow up; ask them if the referral was helpful.
Build a circle of caring (friends, neighbors, relatives) around the person who seems hopeless and out of touch; share the task of checking in daily or weekly to make sure the person is OK.
Include the person in social events, exercise groups, etc.
Take the person with you to a support group, like those offered by NAMI or your church.
We need to move away from the isolation of the individual who is different from us and get them the help they need. We need to be a neighbor, a friend, a brother, a sister, a parent. We need to be there for them. Mental health has been stigmatized for far, far too long; this is a very isolating disease to experience. Just talking about it with someone you may realize is affected is a big step in the right direction.
And maybe, just maybe, this little change will do something to stop the violence.

Deby Dihoff is executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-North Carolina.

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