Dear NAMI: My Apologies.
I’ve Been Unfair.

Sera Davidow
53
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It’s become common place to give the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) a really hard time for accepting such high levels of pharmaceutical funding.  While far too many people might still be surprised to learn the percentage of NAMI’s total donation income made up by big Pharma (about 75% last I knew, or – in cold hard cash terms – around 23 million dollars from 2006 to 2008 as reported in the 2009 New York Times article, ‘Drug Makers Are Advocacy Group’s Biggest Donors’), it’s no surprise to those of us regularly lurking around these parts.  Why?  Because several of us reference it with varying levels of snark just about every other day.

I was most recently reminded of this phenomenon through the comments section of my blog post, ‘I Love…Stigma?’  However, I’ve come to realize that NAMI is taking an NAMI DBSA MHA Imageinequitable amount of heat on this topic, and that I, in fact, have been complicit in maintaining that imbalance.  Am I saying that NAMI should not be criticized for accepting pharmaceutical funding?  Absolutely not.  Rather, I’m simply not sure why, in our zeal to lambast NAMI, we’ve often given organizations like Mental Health America (MHA) and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) a free pass.  Hell, even organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) deserve their own fair dose of our ire.

First, More About NAMI:

There are many critics who say paying too much attention to NAMI’s donation logs is misguided.  For example, Pete Early, author and self-proclaimed lifetime NAMI member, counters that while the level of pharmaceutical funding may be excessive, the funds are put to good and meaningful use.  This is similar (though not quite the same) to another argument I’ve heard more than once (and that I myself used to believe to some degree many years ago):  Isn’t there a certain degree of irony to using drug company funds in ways that might just lessen the need for their drugs?

Others are quick to point out the exceptions, like NAMI Vermont who appear to have changed their policy as of 2011 and no longer accept drug company donations.  Along those same lines, people cite other sporadic signs of change such as Robert Whitaker’s (highly controversial) invitation to speak at the 2013 National NAMI Convention in Texas or the appointment of Keris Jän Myrick as President of the NAMI national board in 2008.  (Keris is a very outspoken advocate and fellow Mad in America blogger who herself has been diagnosed and hospitalized, and was seen as largely responsible for Bob’s invite.)  And, of course, the most popular counter-argument is that pharma contributions simply do not have anything to do with the vast majority of individuals involved with NAMI who generally range from extremely well intended to simply desperate for connection and support.

Most of these points are quite valid.  Previously impossible conversations have begun to happen that could lend support to critical shifts in national perspectives.  As with all national organizations, each chapter and group has its own personality, and some are run with a much keener eye to ethics than others.  Most importantly, many have begun to see the error in demonizing every last friend and parent who got desperate and reached out to what was quite frankly often the only option available for support – an option that we simply can’t deny has helped some.  Ultimately, the demonization does us little favors, and I’ll be the first to admit that I like many people who are connected to each one of the organizations I’m also criticizing herein.

Truth: NAMI does harm, and it does harm in many different ways that cannot be ignored.  While some may say that blaming all the parts for the actions of the whole is an over-generalization, excusing the practices of the whole as simply a way to fund important parts is equally – if not more of – a dangerous over-simplification.

It seems dubious to claim that NAMI is not influenced by its big pharma ties.  NAMI is a regular old conveyor belt for the message, “Mental illness is just like diabetes,” which itself is a one way ticket to a potentially permanent drug regimen.  NAMI national also appears to have drunk the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) Kool-Aid, and offers a fact sheet on Anosognosia and its ‘cure,’ forced outpatient laws, easily accessible on their website.  In 2013, at the Massachusetts NAMI Convention, they had a fascinating little one-sided session on the charms of Electro Convulsive ‘Therapy’ (ECT) called “No More Cuckoo’s Nest: Exploring ECT,” and other chapters have posted newsletters with articles so enticingly titled as:

That last one is my personal favorite.

But, like I said, we’re getting stuck on NAMI and there’s way more to look at, here.

Mental Health America

Mental Health America was actually the subject of my very first Mad in America blog: ‘I am the Number 60.’  In the article, I critiqued their new screening tool, the ‘M3,’ which purports to evaluate you for depression, bipolar, anxiety and PTSD in a mere 3 minutes.  It was clear to me then that MHA was getting pharmaceutical funding if for no other reason than that M3 seemed just a tad bit too eager to rush me off to my doctor, no matter how I answered most of the questions.

Here’s some of the hard facts, though:  As much as NAMI may want to claim their status as top dog in the ‘mental health advocacy’ giants realm, MHA is also throwing their hat in the ring.  On their website, they state:

“Mental Health America, the leading advocacy org addressing the full spectrum of mental and substance use conditions and their effects nationwide, works to inform, advocate and enable access to quality behavioral health services for all Americans. “

It’s a somewhat poorly written, windy little sentence, but it ultimately gets its point across:  MHA is a big player in the world of ‘mental health.’  And are they any less guilty of spreading the medical-disease-psych-drugs-are-the-only-answer mantra?  Well, in some areas of their website they do pay lip service to the idea that there can be many causes of distress and disruption (only two examples of which they identify as biologically or genetically based).   However, when they’re at their most honest and straight forward, it’s clear where they stand with unequivocal declarations such as, “Clinical depression is a serious medical illness.”  While they’re public about their stance against Outpatient commitment, they’re equally ‘out’ about their advocacy to have children screened for ‘mental health issues’ as early on as possible.

And the question of the hour:  From where does their funding descend?  In their 2010 annual report, 8 of the top ten named contributors were pharmaceutical companies (including all five that gave over $100,000 and 3 of five who gave between $50,000 and $99,999).

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) seems equally as troubled as its friends above.  Among fellow giants, DBSA’s particular claim to fame is that it is, “created for and is led by individuals living with mood disorders.”  However, many don’t seem to know that DBSA is ‘guided’ by a ‘Scientific Advisory Board’ made up of 47 clinically-oriented professionals, 34 of whom are doctors and some of whom have come under investigation for conflict of interests relating to pharmaceutical ties.  This includes former Board member and psychiatrist, Joseph Biederman.

On their site, DBSA also promotes many pamphlets and facts sheets, including an ‘educational brochure’ on clinical trials.  And just like MHA and NAMI, they promote the idea of significant emotional distress as a medical illness, jumping right to the now well-debunked myth that depression involves “an imbalance of brain chemicals,” in their very first sentence on the topic.  Similar to MHA, they appear to stand against Outpatient Commitment laws, but are equally as supportive of early childhood ‘mental health’ screening.

And their funding?  Once again, of their 10 top funders named in their 2012 annual report (each giving unspecified amounts over $25,000), eight were pharmaceutical companies.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) may seem like small potatoes next to NAMI, MHA and DBSA, but they’re worth an honorable mention.  After all, AFSP stakes the claim that at least 90% of individuals who die by suicide have a “mental disorder at the time of their deaths.”  (Posthumous diagnoses, anyone?)  The site goes on to claim, “One of the best ways to prevent suicide is by understanding and treating these disorders,” which once again sounds like an express ticket to the drug mill to me.  (Though, to their credit, the site does recognize – however briefly – that some prescriptions appear to increase suicidal urges.)

AFSP also boasts the honor of having a former president – David Shaffer – who was responsible for leading the development of the now somewhat infamous TeenScreen.  TeenScreen is a controversial tool that Marcia Angell (Harvard Professor and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine) was described as, “just a way to put more people on prescription drugs.

And the verdict on AFSP’s funding?  Well, their 2012 annual report doesn’t look quite as grim as the others, but there one and only donor over $100,000 is Forest Laboratories, and Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and at least five other drug companies (keep a sharp eye out for the ones that are less familiar and/or don’t put ‘pharmaceutical’ at the end of their name!) donated in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $99,000.

So What?  Doesn’t it Matter Most What They Do With That Funding?

Well, yes… and no.  In 2012, Dalhousie University Doctoral student Sharon Batt found this issue compelling enough that she composed her dissertation on a study of the policy implications of pharmaceutical company funding of ‘patients’ groups.’  Colleagues and college officials found her final report so compelling that she was awarded the “Dalhousie University Faculty of Graduate Studies Doctoral Thesis Award for the university’s most outstanding doctoral thesis in the humanities and social sciences.”  (She is currently preparing to write a book based on her research.)  Some of her most relevant findings included the following:

“Non-profit advocacy groups that are independent of industry . . . support a strong government role in drug regulation by demanding rigorous safety standards, improved post-marketing surveillance, enforcement of the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) and controls on the proportion of health care funds that are devoted to pharmaceuticals. These groups typically define pharmaceutical funding of advocacy groups as problematic. Industry-funded non-profits . . . contest the assumption that strict government regulations favour the public interest. Their demands tend to be consistent with those of industry: rapid drug approvals, legal DTCA and no limits on formulary drug spending.”

Meanwhile, in a 2004 article by Pharmaceutical Executive Josh Weinstein titled, “Public Relations:  Why Advocacy Beats DTC” he states:

“DTC promotions result in excesses in spending, awareness overkill, mistargeted messages, and an overall negative image for our industry . . . DTC promotion regulations obligate advertisers to frighten the public with laundry lists of side effects… As a veteran pharma marketer, I have witnessed that the most direct and efficient tool for driving long-term support for brands has been, and continues to be, a well-designed, advocacy-based public education program . . . working with advocacy groups is one of the most accomplished means of raising disease awareness and enhancing the industry’s image as deliverer of new and tangible value to patients. Often this advocacy work is unbranded, stimulating consumers to ask doctors about their symptoms. Then, companies can compete by promoting their brands to physicians.”

Could it be any more plain?  Industry professionals are themselves publishing articles publicly acknowledging that one of the most effective ‘tricks’ they have up their collective sleeve is partnership with advocacy groups such as NAMI, MHA, and DBSA.  Need a specific example?  Try this one on for size:

In 2002, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Paul Glader revealing that Mental Health America (in collaboration with the JED Foundation) agreed to send 3,000 college presidents a letter and 13-page study titled, “Safeguarding Your Students Against Suicide.” It was underwritten by Wyeth and Forest Labs, and apparently all geared toward offering widespread campus talks on depression (by the makers of Effexor!).

Other Points for Consideration

Not surprisingly, pharmaceutical companies frequently refer the press to the very advocacy organizations (NAMI, MHA, etc.) that they themselves fund.  (“Hey, don’t ask us!  Ask those national leaders on mental health right over there.  We’ll be right over here minding our own business. Pay NO attention to the man behind the curtain!” [Twiddles Thumbs])  What’s the harm in that?  Well, take the book ‘Prozac Backlash,’ as an example.  When Joseph Glenmullen (a doctor from Harvard Medical with no other real claim to fame) authored ‘Backlash’ in 2001, he exposed problems with under reporting of negative effects and withholding of viable and much less dangerous alternatives.  The response?   Very public and very poor reviews by representatives from both NAMI and MHA (as noted in this Salon article).  Of course, those representatives failed to mention the millions in pharma funding their respective organizations had received, so mostly all the public got out of it was that officials from well-respected national organizations said the book was bad and wrong.  Counter message squashed!

But everyone has a fair shot at getting their opinions published, right?  Freedom of the press?  Not so much.  This brings me back to the CT Mirror Op-Ed piece by Rich Shulman (Mental Illness: Another Point of View) that I mentioned in my last post and that focused on the one sided and overwhelmingly medicalized perception of emotional distress being offered at a Connecticut Forum event called, “An Honest Look at Mental Illness.”  On March 9th, Deron Drum of Advocacy Unlimited posted a statement in the comments section of Rich’s piece sharing how his organization’s voice had been outright silenced when they also tried to speak up about about the Forum event.

“We sought to have our view, similar to Rich’s perspective, heard. One media outlet said that the last time they let someone speak against the current bio-medical philosophy in mental health – they received “angry letters” for weeks – so they would not let us be heard.”

Deron had a similar experience with another media group who actually invited his opinion, but then shut it down once said media group heard what the opinion actually was and decided it was too askew of the mainstream message.  In the film ‘Beyond the Medical Model,’ Robert Whitaker himself talks openly about having no longer been allowed to write about ‘mental health’ in mainstream media in the period following the release of his book (the namesake of this very site), “Mad in America.”  The point here is this:  The allegiance between the pharmaceutical industry and these ‘advocacy’ agencies has the power to shape public opinion in profound ways, including leaving very little space for other voices to even be heard let alone taken seriously.

Meanwhile, let’s not miss just how entangled organizations like MHA, DBSA, NAMI and AFSP truly are with one another.  AFSP has shared at least one prominent board member with DBSA’s Scientific Advisory Board (Jan A. Fawcett, M.D, who has also reportedly had pharmaceutical ties at times).  And, all the organizations are known for quoting one another to support their own claims (for example, this DBSA article that cites NAMI-reported statistics).  Given that the public is much more likely to believe what they hear from multiple sources (even if it’s just the same misinformation passed around between ‘friends’), recycling data between one another is a highly convenient, ‘smoke-and-mirrors’ strategy that leaves everyone involved looking all the more reliable.
It’s also worth taking a closer look at the donation numbers between the four organizations and how they intersect with one another.  Strangely, the New York chapter of MHA donated somewhere between $25,000 and $49,000 to AFSP in 2012.  And, while Pfizer’s gifting to MHA was fairly low (only totaling $21,500 in 2013), at least one of the grants making up that amount was for the specific purpose of improving “access to medication.”  Meanwhile, by looking at the gifting disclosures publicized on each pharmaceutical’s websites, one can also spot other odd little crossovers.  For example, in 2009 Wyeth reportedly gave $40,000 to AFSP,  $269,000 to DBSA,  $388,500 to MHA and  $255,500 NAMI.  However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that DBSA, NAMI and MHA (along with the American Psychiatric Foundation, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Medical Association and the National Urban League) were all a part of the so-called ‘Depression is Real’ Coalition, and each individually received funds from Wyeth for that exact same project totaling $176,000.  The reason for approaching the gifting in that way is unclear, but nonetheless intriguing.

Side note:  Conveniently, if you want to know what other pharmaceuticals might be up to but need a list of names to look up, just check out the MHA ‘How Can I Get Information About Medications’ page.  There, they list the contact information for all ‘major’ pharmaceuticals.  (Once you know the name of the company, you can generally just search on that combined with ‘gifting’ or ‘donations’ and come up with their grant disclosure report.)

And what about that whole ‘peer’ element?  As most are aware, there’s a trend sweeping the nation involving peer-to-peer supports that has included the development of ‘Certified Peer Specialist’ (CPS) trainings.  Well, guess what?  DBSA currently holds the national contract for CPS trainings for Veterans.  But never fear, MHA and NAMI have not been left out in the cold!  For example, they apparently co-sponsor the ‘Via Hope’ CPS training in Texas.  The people being trained for these ‘peer’ roles are the folks that are supposed to be guiding the system because they’ve experienced it first hand.  They’re supposed to be change agents!  Yet it would appear that they are just one more group from which at least a significant percentage are unknowingly under the influence of drug companies, however indirectly.

Clearly, the impact of pharmaceutical funding to advocacy organizations runs far deeper than just what those organizations superficially appear to be spending said dollars upon

Conclusion

So, what are all the implications of having giant ‘advocacy’ organizations that are continuing to actively promote the medical disease model as the way, that are supporting their pharmaceutical funders by denouncing contrarians who dare speak up, that often have the monopoly on the ear of the media, that are paving the pharmaceutical ‘path’ in much less ‘scary’ ways than those ‘DTC’ commercials with their pesky, long lists of unintended effects, that collaborate among themselves and repeat each other’s ‘facts’ to build credence, and then have also deemed themselves expert ‘trainers’ of the nation’s ‘peer’ supporters who we’re supposed to trust all the more because they’ve ‘been there’… all the while amidst a general public that often has no idea about their funding relationships?  Well, gosh, I’ll let you take it from here.

But for now, I can at least say this:

Dear NAMI, I’m sorry I acted as if you were ever all alone in this.  (Though, all told, you probably are still the worst of the bunch if for no other reason than your apparent stance on forced outpatient commitment laws.)  As we all know, it’s hard to feel as if there’s no one there for you who really ‘gets it.’  But, you’re clearly not alone, and so I apologize.  In the future, I promise to do a better job of balancing out my snide remarks among your various acronymized companions, as well.  I wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out.

 

 

 

53 COMMENTS

  1. Sera,
    Thanks for researching the connections between patient advocacy groups and their sponsors in the pharmaceutical corporations. I work with mostly low-income medicaid clients as an LPC and I am appalled, but no longer amazed, at the quantities of medications some of my clients take, apparently unaware of the potential side effects. The prescriber’s approach seems to be, “I will give you whatever I can think of that might alleviate your (fill in the blank).” Part of what I do therapeutically is to offer alternatives such as mindfulness, nutrition information, self-calming strategies and identifying and addressing the effects of trauma. Mad in America has been a great resource. When I find a well-thought-out article, I pass it on to other professionals.

  2. Thanks for this Sera. My suicide prevention organisation CASPER has a policy of not only not accepting Pharmaceutical company funding but not accepting government funding. Few people would understand how hard this is – not being paid for months and having to sleep on other people’s floors to survive – but this article highlights how important it is and why we make the sacrifice. Funding influences philosophy and practice and can corrupt the best of intentions.

  3. Fantastic post Sera and thank you for researching this thoroughly. To add a personal note, Recently the director of the mental health units at the hospital I work for strongly promoted all staff to attend a NAMI “walk” through downtown Portland to promote “awareness of the need to help those with mental illness.” I stated my case plainly that I would not be walking with other staff. The Director and my co-workers were astonished. Why not? Well…it took a few minutes and a lot of blank stares.

    These staff are well meaning people, as are almost everyone who works with NAMI. They believe strongly that they are doing a very important service. It’s important to discuss the facts with them without belittling them or insulting them. If I say, well you’ve essentially been co-opted by the pharmaceutical companies to promote their medical illness based model and hooking people on strong drugs to treat their emotional distress…they may get a tad…upset.

    We need article after article like yours in high profile media sites…exposing Big Pharma for co-opting and corrupting the very organizations that are meant to ave and protect the vulnerable.

    • I am likewise concerned about NAMI’s close ties to pharma, and their refusal to break free from such a strictly medical model. As someone who was once [confession time] very involved in NAMI, I have been extremely disappointed in them. While I also believe that many involved in the organization are well-meaning, they simply aren’t informed.

      Something that has alarmed me as well is NAMI’s ties to what I call Big Hospital. When we first began the “fresh air rights” advocacy in MA, NAMI was originally firmly on board, but then abruptly became ‘neutral’ as regards the issue. But looking at the lineup of sponsors for the annual walk, I realized the probable reason. Most if not all major psych hospitals, or hospitals with psych units, have been major sponsors. Not just that, but the lobbyist organization that fought fresh air and MANY other rights efforts was a contributor. And atop it all, the 2012 “National Sponsor” of NAMI-Walks was none other than Universal Health Services (UHS), a huge conglomerate of hospitals that specializes in ‘behavioral health.’ UHS has a long and ugly history of rights abuses, neglect, abuse and grevious medical errors. Its MA affiliate, Arbour Health Systems, is infamous (more at http://failuretocare.com/).

      NAMI-MA and NAMI-National both have language in their bylaws stating that part of their mission is to be a watchdog for violations at inpatient facilities. How could this be, while taking money from them?

  4. To see what NAMI is really about go to their NAMI Policy Research Institute website. They spend most of their effort on making sure the pharmaceutical industry is able to get as many Medicaid dollars as possible. I’ve yet to find a NAMI member who even knows the NAMI Policy Research Institute exists. NAMI exploits the unsuspecting people who show up at their meetings seeking help. NAMI gets them to push for unlimited access to the “medications”. Members don’t realize they are most often killing their relatives with the medication treatment.
    http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=policy_research_institute
    The Treatment Advocacy Center is actually a spinoff of NAMI
    Check out the Stanley Medical Research Institute also. They fund the Treatment Advocacy Center. They are the big money and Dr. Fuller Torrey is right in the middle of this org also. He has an article currently on their front page.
    http://www.stanleyresearch.org/dnn/LaboratoryofDevelopmentalNeurovirology/ToxoplasmosisSchizophreniaResearch/tabid/172/Default.aspx
    Great article Sera.

  5. Excellent exposure of NAMI/TAC’s and other organization’s deceitful manipulation of the public and “mental health” officials. Every state “mental health” system I worked for had NAMI as a partner. I complained to administrators, on a number of occasions, and was basically told to keep my mouth shut as the partnership was sanctioned by the State mental health executives. Your article needs to be seen by all State and local “mental health” officials.

    • It is kind of amazing how they feel OK to make all of these claims without any literature references or footnotes whatsoever. I wish we’d have “scientific literacy” courses for teens and young adults so that people could learn to sift through this crap. I don’t know what the answer is, but this kind of posting is totally reprehensible and possibly qualifies as downright evil!

      — Steve

  6. Hi Sera,

    You mention a doctoral study by Sharon Batt.

    Sharon is another medical journalist who wrote a book called Patient No More about the breast cancer industry. I found it a couple of years ago, wanting more info when someone dear to me got diagnosed with breast cancer. I couldn’t believe it: page after page til the end read exactly like Anatomy of an Epidemic! I immediately introduced her and Bob to each others’ work via email.

    Recently, I just picked up In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Mihael Pollan. Deja vu, all over again, this time about the food industry, research, marketing and influence on doctors.

    I’m picturing joint conferences. What a way to reach cross-over crowds.

    Thanks for your writing, Sera. It’s powerful.

  7. Antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers have been proven to be effective in treating oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

    Stated here http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/ADHD/ADHD_and_Coexisting_Conditions.htm

    I called and asked “Antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers have been proven to be effective in treating oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder BY WHO ???? .

    Try , see what they say , 1 800 950-NAMI

    I would think using pharma money to promote off label use of Antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers in kids would be illegal or something.

  8. Hi Sera,
    Thank you for writing this very important piece. We do need to keep trying to get this information out as widely as possible. Some published research articles that I have cited in the past by a very credible sociologist researcher, Athena McLean. In her work we see the history and context. And in the words of Miles Horton of the Highlander Center: We have to be in this for the Long Haul.

    http://www.psychosocial.com/IJPR_8/Recovering-McLean.html
    http://www.psychosocial.com/IJPR_8/Recovering1-McLean.html

    Keep up the great work.
    Ron

    • Thanks for posting this! I sat and applauded the guy as he went after that NAMI person who was also a state representative who was supporting a bill that would draw more people into the net of psychiatry and the drug companies. Talk about a conflict of interests! The guy really did a number one her!

  9. So how do we fund our way out of this mess? I have one strategy (not really mine as Seth Farber advocated this before me): What if religious institutions that are diminishing repurposed their buildings, properties, and staff for the purpose of Soteria-like housing and intentional communities for the mad in America? I have a collaboration with a diminishing Christian denomination on the East coast of the USA. They own buildings, properties, camps, educational institutions, and nursing homes that are going unused or underused. They have developed a community development corporation for the vision of repurposing these buildings. Some now house foster children who have aged out of the system, victims of domestic violence, and homeless people, in short mad folk. Just today, a notice came across my desk from a diminishing church looking for someone to lead them forward. There are no people under age 35 in this church. They would love to have some. Could we form an organization that could contact and collaborate with these property owners? Seems like a better bet than contacting Big Pharma, but I could be wrong.

    • Great thinking outside the box, RISN.

      I just get very concerned about sending vulnerable people to church programs, given that for so many, the Christian church is another controlling, corrupt, abusive system and has a history of doing the footwork of imperialism and colonialism. Can anyone do a better job of translating that down to how that can impact on people’s everyday lives, especially vulnerable people?

  10. Why not form our own “Church” ” Temple” or “Religious Organization” designed specifically for open dialog ,RD Laing,Mosher organic food mercury free, natural first do no harm alternatives to shelter and heal and teach people how to avoid the medicalpsychpharma archipelago wherever and however and whatever it morphs itself into ? With enough guidelines to slide in under freedom of religious rights and enough room and non coerciveness for all who need ? With liberty and justice for all.

  11. NAMI presents a serious threat to our National Security which has largely been ignored by our government officials, elected representatives and military leaders, with the possible exception of Senator Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa.

    NAMI is provided with meeting room facilities at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, where the group “educates” veterans and their families in the biological nature of “mental illness”. DVA psychiatrists refer their veteran patients to these NAMI groups. The veteran service organizations like the Disabled American Veterans also provide NAMI with meeting facilities. Perhaps the most outrageous development has been the authorization by the US Military for NAMI members to visit active duty personnel, officers and senior NCOs on-base during duty hours, to recruit active service members to these NAMI groups.

    At one DAV NAMI group I attended several times before being banned, and this was at my own DAV chapter where I am a life member, most of the “support” consisted of how to apply for and successfully obtain a service-connected disability rating for PTSD or another “mental illness”. Of course this involves following the doctor’s orders and taking all medications exactly as prescribed. The rest of the support seemed to involve dealing with the side-effects of the medications and the negative effects on the veterans personal and professional lives.

    The threat that these NAMI promotional activities present to force readiness, morale and National Security are quite obvious.

    • To some stating NAMI is a threat to national security would seem like an overstatement, not me.

      “Antidepressants Cause Suicide and Violence in Soldiers | Print | E-mail
      Here are the starting facts: Death by suicide is at record levels in the armed services. Simultaneously the use of antidepressant drugs is also at record levels, including brand names like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Lexapro.

      According to the army, in 2007 17% of combat troops in Afghanistan were taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills. Inside sources have given me an even bleaker picture: During Vietnam, a mere 1% our troops were taking prescribed psychiatric drugs. By contrast, in the past year one-third of marines in combat zones were taking psychiatric drugs.

      Are the pills helping? The army confirms that since 2002 the number of suicide attempts has increased six-fold. And more than 128 soldiers killed themselves last year.

      One theory states that the increased prescription of drugs is a response to increased depression among the soldiers. In reality, the use of psychiatric drugs escalates when, and only when, drug companies and their minions target new markets. In this case, the armed services have been pushing drugs as a cheap alternative to taking genuine care of the young men and women in our military.”

      Read more; http://breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=269

      “drug companies and their minions target new markets”

      The drug companies fund there NAMI minions , I hope our elected officials wake up and stop this.

  12. Boy was I glad to see that your “apology” was facetious. Expose ’em all, go for it!

    I think I have only 2 things to add:

    On the point that many who work with NAMI et al. do so out of a sense of true compassion, etc., this is undoubtedly true. But many rank & file Republicans (and Democrats) also believe they are working for a noble cause and are oblivious to the evil machinations of their leadership; it is the collective functioning of an organization which determines its beneficial or malevolent nature, not the individual member.

    And regarding the thought that it doesn’t matter where the funding comes from as long as it’s used in a good way, I would have to ask what would happen if any of these groups changed course and denounced the use of psychotropic pharmaceuticals, or the medical model itself; would they continue to exist without the “support” of their benefactors?

  13. I don’t like NAMI… pardon the association but they are pushing this “come out as mentally ill” initiative oddly as the 5150 scenarios of forced treatment etc and loss of all rights are being promoted as good. I hear people say Britney Spears is going so great and she is so happy and successful now but I see that same way I felt when my mom did the same to me and I can see it in her demeanor. She makes the best of it but it’s not right.

  14. I was a member for NAMI and I resigned. NAMI only cares about rich people, or if you live in a city or a rich community. I called there headquarters Nationally, and here in Massachusetts. The operators who run this are rude and uncaring. One of these “volunteers” tried to sic a psychologist on me to throw me in the rubber room, and we were going to call the police if they do that. They gave me useless numbers. And the so-called. “National Suicide Hotline” referred me to a insane asylum! And the so-called “warm-lines?” Brrrrrr…. Massachusetts is bad enough with mental health. I went to 20 psychologists who either rolled their eyes, yelled at me, sit there and smile, one told me to leave after ten minutes, or worse telling me to think happy thoughts or the worst count your blessings! The whole situation with NAMI and the extremely poor mental health, (the way I was treated by NAMI and the so-called “mental health professionals” makes me sick! After going through all of this experience, I learnt two things, I can see why a lot of people want to commit suicide(even myself sometimes.) And, With NAMI YOU ARE ALONE!!!

    • Glad you resigned. Everything you have said about NAMI resonates with what I’ve heard and experienced. There are some well-intended people in there, but they as a rule tend to freak out when anybody questions the dominant paradigm or starts talking about the rights of “mentally ill” people to make informed decisions. Not all branches are like that – there are a few exceptions, but the national leadership tends to be 100% behind the diagnose-and-drug strategy, and lets parents and society off the hook completely as possible agents of mental distress.

      And Sera is correct, this board doesn’t turn over fast enough to expect a 4-hour response, especially on an older thread. It’s more reasonable to expect something in a couple of days, unless it’s a very new and hot thread.

      Hope you’ve found someone more helpful than NAMI in your community!

      —– Steve