Speaker surprised with NAMI award
By Elizabeth Cook
People who encounter mental illness have a choice to make, according to Jim Mallinson.
They can find out what the illness is, learn more about it and either get treatment or advocate for the person who needs treatment and others in similar circumstances.
Or, he said, they can remain uninformed and potentially prejudiced about mental illness and suffer the consequences.
Mallinson, a licensed clinical addictions specialist, spoke Thursday at a luncheon marking Mental Illness Awareness Week. Organized by the Rowan branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the luncheon was held at Rowan Public Library.
Mallinson was both keynote speaker and ó to his surprise ó recipient of NAMI Rowanís Professional of the Year Award. A graduate of Catawba College, he was a substance abuse program director for many years before joining UNC Charlotte as an alcohol and drug specialist and, later, director of student health services.
Since retiring in 2006, Mallinson has formed Carolina Counseling Services, where he provides counseling and consulting services and clinical supervision.
Mallinson told the group people who have mental illness may feel their situation is hopeless. He has seen addiction rob people of everything ó job, family, friends, health, home ó and it often is accompanied by other diseases, such as depression, anxiety or psychosis. Change occurs, he said, when new choices are made.
The choice to seek treatment is a crucial one, he said, because behaviors can be mislabeled, and sometimes they have a physical cause.
Others often accuse people suffering with alcoholism, drug addiction, depression or anxiety of merely lacking will power, he said, but volition is only part of these disorders.
There are four components to the treatment of disease, he said:
Each disease has physical attributes that the person was born with, developed over time or acquired through accidental or environmental events and influences.
The psychological and emotional component arises from the challenge to the person’s sense of wellbeing ówhy me? óand what others say about them. ěWords often hurt,î he said.
Social and cultural influences may limit a person with mistaken beliefs and reactions, such as believing addiction is simply a lack of moral fortitude. That just increases the guilt and shame, he said.
And thereís a spiritual element, which Mallinson defined as being much broader than organized religion. Itís a personís relation to the world, whether he feels and acts as though he is totally alone or that there is something greater than himself.
Mental illness is often misunderstood, he said. People make assumptions and act on preconceived notions and prejudices. They then discriminate as a way to control others.
Being complacent or silent and not challenging such discrimination allows it to continue, Mallinson said. Advocates for people with mental illness have to speak up, he said. Be consistent and assertive. By bringing attention to mental illness and the real facts about it, the demystify the diseases and allow help to be provided for people who need it. He thanked NAMI Rowan for doing exactly that.
Celebration of Success recognition went to two individuals recognized for successful recovery efforts: Bill Broussard and Shanna Dixon.
Mayor Susan Kluttz read the proclamation designating Oct. 2-8 as Mental Illness Awareness Month.
Officers for the coming year are Peggy Mangold, president; Major Sampson, vice president; Carol Greene and Jim Mangold, secretary; and Sarah Keller Boyd, treasurer.