Life Question Spring 2022, NAMI in New Orleans

During the last two years of the pandemic, mental health issues have increased in many sectors of society. Nearly 70 percent of American businesses have closed at least some office space since the COVID-19 pandemic began, also social interaction with peers has disappeared. Before the emergence of COVID-19, anxiety disorders already rank as one of the most common mental health problems globally. According to University of Oxford research, anxiety disorders, the most widespread of mental health disorders, impacted an estimated 284 million people in 2017 worldwide. The total age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 35.2% from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 14.2 per 100,000 in 2018, before declining to 13.9 per 100,000 in 2019.

The New Orleans chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Our Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, now a pilot program in the 8th District covering the French Quarter, the CBD, and Treme, connects police officers with teams of case managers and peer support specialists who can step into a problematic situation and get people the help they need,” said Joseph Bodenmiller, executive director of NAMI New Orleans. “The key to the success of this program is NAMI’s partnership with the New Orleans Health Department and NOPD,” said Bodenmiller, who holds a master’s degree in clinical social work. “Our teams walk through the district, connecting with the people who need help.”

Advocating for people with mental illness and raising awareness of the problem requires work on the ground, and that costs money. NAMI in New Orleans gets its funding from programs that can sometimes charge Medicaid, through government entities like HUD, and through private fundraising. To that end, NAMI New Orleans, which serves Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes, will hold its annual walk at Armstrong Park on Jan. 8 to raise money while raising awareness of mental health issues. In this way, not only can mental health information be disseminated to those who need help with mental health issues, but also the entire community can be called upon to join the team.

Armstrong Park New Orleans (Photo by Nora Daniels)

NAMI offers a meme online called NAMI Moments, which are 15–30-minute sessions on topics related to mental health and current epidemics. Like sometimes when people are stressed, they eat to comfort themselves. When they feel better for a while, but then the guilt from eating too much causes people to stress, which leads to eating more. This activity teaches why people eat when they are stressed, what good foods like chocolate, ice-cream can help people manage stress, and how to avoid stress eating like control their eating. Through the relationship between lifestyle and mental health, NAMI moments set up a lot of class schedules for the people during the pandemic to find the solutions to releasing stress or other negative feelings. People can easily find what kind of resources they want because there are a lot of tags on the top of the website, like “connection support group”, “family support group”, “special events”, and so on.

For those who feel alone in this age of social isolation, it is more important than ever to make connections. NAMI created a topic about encouraging people to share their personal moments on social media, in order to speared the influence on the whole community under Covid-19. NAMI appeals to people to join the Immortal Moments community and celebrate everyone’s stories together. Maybe one person’s monumental moment will help others in the community. When people use #MortalMoments public posts on social media will help support those living with mental health conditions, including those who also live with the involuntary movement disorder known as delayed dyskinesia (TD). As part of its commitment to support people living with mental illness, Neurocrine Biosciences will make a donation to mental health organizations on behalf of the posts shared. Celebrate your moment – Post a picture, video, or status update of your moment on your favorite social media channel (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram). Use the hashtag – Use the hashtag #MonumentalMoments to connect with others and share your moments. Posts may also appear in the moment’s gallery on this site.

Perhaps the greatest threat to the sustainable improvement of mental health perceptions in society is the stigma surrounding its existence. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad or not. The deep stigma that shrouds conversations about mental health impedes progress toward social acceptance. Mental health issues are what I prefer to call “mentally challenging” because that’s what they are. They challenge your mental health, your work life, your family life, your relationships, how you function in society, …., to name just a few. They range from anger to schizophrenia and many other conditions. They may be even more profound because of what we are experiencing today, due to the lifestyle changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Each of these challenges can be managed; many with medication from a board-certified physician and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) from a licensed social worker or psychologist.

The NAMI group believes that identifying these issues is the first step toward progress, but overcoming them can be a lifelong struggle. They cite notes from the mind. org.The UK on their official website as a way to help the mental health-focused Louisiana community find ways to cope with mental health. For example,  they talked about feeling depressed. People can start talking about how you are feeling, it may make you feel better. It may be that just having someone listen to you will show that they care. Peer support allows you to support each other, share ideas about how to stay healthy, connect with others, and feel less alone. Try joining a community project, sports team, or hobby group. Start something new – a new hobby, learn something new, or even try new food, volunteer. This will make you feel better about yourself. Set realistic goals. Goals like getting dressed every day and cooking a meal. Do something you love!

Katharine Hartlb, a student at the University of South Carolina, is facing mental problems in her life. At age 16, the severity of events such as her classmate’s suicide, her parent’s divorce, or her car accident all caused her to feel emotions she had never dealt with before. This led to her being diagnosed with severe depression and general anxiety disorder. She sought help through the NAMI Ending the Silence (ETS) program, in which Katherine visited high schools and told her story in the hope that she could also help others who are also struggling with mental illness and encourage them to seek help.

Last month, roughly 70% of Americans experienced moderate-to-severe mental distress—triple the rate seen in 2018. “I expected there to be an increase, but even I was surprised by how large it was,” says Jean Twenge, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of anxiety include sleep issues, challenges in

Find a support system for mental health (Posts by: Hannah Guttman)

thinking or focusing on topics other than what is triggering the worrying, sweating, trembling, restlessness, tension, nervousness, hyperventilation, challenges controlling worrying, avoiding anxiety triggers, increased heart rate, gastrointestinal issues, and a sense of impending doom, danger or panic.

To manage normal anxiety, NAMI suggested that there are many steps that people can take such as getting adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. Make time for fun and relaxation, such as hobbies, meditation, yoga, or even listening to music to redirect the mind and calm the body. Above all, it is important to identify what is triggering the feelings of apprehension and create a plan.



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