NAMI offers info, support for mental illness

April 11, 2013 10:08:59 AM PDT
Mental illness is a disability that is often misunderstood and associated with negative stigmas. But there are reasons for that.

Society can be frightened by people with mental illness, experts in the field say. The lack of services is making it difficult for people to get adequate treatment.

"Mental Illness, if they are ignored and if they are not treated, do not get better, and they just get worse. Things continue to escalate and escalate and escalate," said Suzanne Andriukaitis, executive director, National Alliance of Mental Illness of Greater Chicago. "NAMI provides information and referrals and education programs and support groups and advocacy for folks who are living with mental illnesses and their family members."

Andriukaitis says the problem in this country is services.

"More than half of persons with mental illnesses are not getting any treatment at all," she said. "The cuts to the mental health service delivery here in Illinois over the past couple years have been between 30 and 40 percent... When those individuals are not receiving adequate treatment, they can sometimes erupt."

Not only are services not adequate, people are afraid to get help, Andriukaitis said.

"They don't understand that they have a mental illness that others around them don't understand, that this person had an illness and help that person get to treatment," said Andriukaitis.

In regards to lack of services for people with mental illness, resources are limited when compared to other disabilities.

"If someone had a heart disease or if someone has cancer there is a whole array of services that come into play for those individuals right away," Andriukaitis said. "We treat mental illnesses in this country as if it is something altogether on the side, altogether different and even to the point where, well, maybe if we just ignore it will go away.

"We need to have systems in place where, when someone has a serious mental illness they can get all of the medications all of the treatment that we know will enable that person to recover their families can get support," Andriukaitis said.