NIMH Director Thomas Insel, MD
I enjoyed seeing many of you on the NIH campus in March for the Outreach Partnership Program annual meeting. It was a unique opportunity for me to spend time learning about your organizations and your perspectives on the mental health issues affecting your communities; I appreciated your input very much. I felt fortunate that our group was able to hear directly from NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and see his enthusiasm about the state of neuroscience research and the tremendous scientific opportunities that lie ahead. I was especially pleased that the Partners were able to hear about some of the groundbreaking research taking place in the Division of Intramural Research (DIRP) at NIMH, such as the research being conducted on fast-acting medications for depression that, as one Partner put it, “… is a real game changer.” Perhaps most meaningful to me was the dialogue session sparked by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last December and several other mass shootings. It was timely and critical that we came together to examine how the conversation has changed both nationally and in the states, and how we collectively must work together to ensure these discussions are informed by science. As Dr. Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University noted, this unfortunate event creates an opportunity to get accurate information out to the public “at a time when they are paying attention.” I encourage you to read on to learn about how Partners are educating the public about mental health and working to overcome misperceptions of mental illness.
Outreach Partners disseminate NIMH materials and research findings throughout their state.
NAMI Arkansas tweeted about NIMH research findings.
MHA in Delaware distributed NIMH literature at its annual conference focusing on mental health disparities among communities of color.
The Massachusetts Association on Mental Health (MAMH) incorporates NIMH information about children’s mental health into a monthly report for distribution to the Massachusetts Children’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council.
The Association for Children's Mental Health site in Kent County, Michigan utilized the NIMH depression video and the Brain Basics materials for family and youth groups.
MHA in Tulsa, East Texas Area Health Education Center (AHEC), and MAMH informed communities about NIMH trauma resources after tragedies in their states.
In March, representatives from Outreach and National Partner organizations met on the NIH campus for the Program’s 2013 annual meeting. In addition to the presentations by Drs. Collins and Insel and other scientists at NIMH, Partners heard talks from grantees in several key areas, such as DSM-5 and interventions, services, and policies designed to improve the health of individuals with serious mental illness.
During a listening session about how the national conversation about mental illness has grown and changed since the Sandy Hook tragedy, Partners engaged with a panel of NIMH grantees with expertise in mental illness and violence, involuntary commitment, and early identification in schools and primary care settings. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration described plans for a national dialogue to address negative attitudes toward mental illness and its treatment, which will include an online portal for mental health information, MentalHealth.gov, and community conversations. Read more about the discussion in an NIH Record article about the meeting.
NIMH would like to thank all the Partners who shared projects and lessons learned in the Partner Sharing and Roundtable sessions. The Partner Sharing Session, a cornerstone of the annual meeting, provides a distinct opportunity for participants to share and learn about each other’s outreach and education activities. In the words of one Outreach Partner, "It was great to learn about what other agencies are doing and discussing with them similar challenges we face, and hearing feedback and suggestions as to what works.”
During the Partner roundtable session Outreach and National Partners along with NIMH staff, presented and led discussions about a number of issues, including bullying, multi-cultural outreach, the mental health needs of service members and Veterans, Youth Mental Health First Aid, peer support, suicide prevention, perinatal mental health, and youth empowerment.
Extending the Reach
Since the meeting, Partners have been sharing research findings and taking outreach ideas back to their organizations. NAMI New York State prepared a meeting summary that it shared with its constituents. NAMI Minnesota included a summary in its newsletter, as did MHA of Colorado. Other organizations plan to expand outreach to Veterans and conduct postpartum depression activities based on what was learned at the meeting. We look forward to hearing how other Partners are extending the reach of the information presented at the meeting into their communities.
Read the full meeting summary on the NIMH website.
Thank you to all the Partners for making the 2013 Annual Meeting a success!
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Partners conduct outreach projects addressing mental disorders among children and adolescents, or mental health disparities.
NAMI Alabama: Outreach to African American Congregations
Misperceptions and negative attitudes about mental illness often prevent individuals from seeking the help they need. NAMI Alabama (NAMI AL) is working to address this problem in African American communities through the Sharing Hope program. It’s designed to engage African American faith leaders and encourage them to share science-based information about mental illness and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment with their congregations.
Sharing Hope has been implemented throughout the Black Belt region of the state and NAMI AL is working to expand the program. In November, 2012, it held a Pastors' Summit to reach more African American leaders around the state. Several reverends spoke about how mental illnesses affect congregations and the challenges for pastors when addressing mental illness. A prominent physician provided faith leaders with a written pledge to serve as a reminder to them that clergy often are the first contacts for families in crisis. A resource manual and NIMH brochures were made available and NIMH research was featured in the remarks. “Through our efforts, with the help of our Sharing Hope Coordinator, Lois Herndon, and our Sharing Hope Advisory Board, we are making progress with the African American community in their understanding and awareness of mental health and plans are being made for another Summit in 2013,” said Wanda Laird, NAMI AL’s executive director.
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Outreach Partners are getting out the word about opportunities for the public to participate in research.
MHA of Montana, with the assistance of NIMH DIRP, recently created two educational podcasts--one about the importance of clinical research, and the other about the NIMH research studies that are conducted at the NIH Clinical Center.
Through its monthly e-newsletter, NAMI New Jersey Science and Research Update, NAMI New Jersey aims to promote participation in clinical research to advance mental healthcare and knowledge. The recent issue highlights several NIMH-funded studies that are seeking participants.
Partners are teaming up with researchers in their states to promote clinical trials, and disseminate and apply research. Here are just a couple examples:
Implementation of Evidence-Based Interventions
Meeting Street, the Rhode Island Outreach Partner, is collaborating with NIMH grantee Dr. Stephanie Shepard-Umaschi of Bradley Hospital in East Providence, Rhode Island, to implement evidence-based interventions that promote children's social competence, emotional regulation, and problem solving skills to reduce behavioral problems.
Information Sharing about Rapid-Onset OCD, PANDAS
The families in the National Partner organization, PANDASNetwork.org, have been engaged with NIMH researchers since its inception. PANDAS Network.org’s relationship with the NIMH began when 20 parents shared their children’s stories of PANDAS onset and its crushing effects on both the child and family with NIMH and Dr. Susan Swedo, Senior Investigator and Chief of the Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch at the NIMH DIRP, who discovered PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus). It was after this meeting, PANDASNetwork.org established the goal to gain recognition for this syndrome, get children treated quickly, and increase a child’s likelihood of a full remission of the devastating symptoms associated with PANDAS.
Knowing research is key to the acceptance of a disorder and its needed treatments, PANDASNetwork.org disseminates NIMH information about PANDAS, including promoting the active NIMH PANDAS IVIG study on its homepage, and in social media outlets and newsletters.
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Partners provide opportunities for NIMH scientists and grantees to present their findings at local meetings and conferences.
University of Arkansas' Dr. John Fortney, an NIMH-funded investigator, presented at the NAMI Arkansas annual conference about the mental health needs and help-seeking behaviors of returning Veterans in rural community colleges.
Dr. Jay Giedd of the NIMH DIRP Child Psychiatry Branch presented his findings about teen brain development at the NAMI North Carolina Crisis Intervention Training conference to law enforcement professionals.
Each year NAMI Minnesota partners with the University of Minnesota to organize a research dinner to highlight the newest research findings for the community. This year, the dinner featured four researchers, including NIMH-grantee Meredith Gunlicks Stoessel, who presented her research on the treatment of teen depression.
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