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 A Non-Profit Charitable Organization Affiliated with NAMI-
The Nation’s
Voice on Mental Illness and NAMI Michigan
(Alliance on Mental Illness of
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Volume XX, Number 2                  Winter, 2016


Friends and Fellow NAMI Members,

Keep up to date with activities of our affiliate by going to

Look to our   National website   (   for a wealth of information dealing with Mental Health.

I hope to see you soon – at one of our meetings, or at our annual August picnic.

Thanks, and Peace!


A big THANK YOU to all who worked tirelessly to make our first local walk a big success. Our goal was a big one, as we set it high at $50,000. The National Walk Manager said that most new Walks were lucky to make 25K. Did we blow it out of the park (or University so to speak)!

We held our event at Davenport University. To date, NAMIWalks Kent County has raised $58,244.69.

All affiliates west of Lansing went to the new walk site. We had six affiliates participate. They all did amazing.

NAMI  Alger/Marquette  doubled  their  total  donations over 2015.
NAMI Calhoun “a brand new affiliate” brought in almost 1,700. Their goal was $500.
NAMI Kalamazoo tripled their total donations over 2015.
NAMI Lansing was consistent with their teams raising a little more than 2015.
NAMI Southwestern a “first time participant” brought in $502 just going over their goal of $500.

NAMI Kent County had two teams in 2015. This year they had 11 teams.  Here are the teams:

Banishing Stigma with Knowledge         $3030.00
Between a Walk and a Hard Pace (KF)   $555.00
Dooley Noe                                                 $4008.73
Gwynn’s Team                                           $3245.00
MOKA – Kent                                               $580.00
Network180 Stigma Stompers                $1180.00
PT Supporters                                            $135.00
Recovery Academy                                   $200.00
Stride With Pride                                       $4447.82
Team Angela                                              $930.00
Walk the Talk                                             $1562.00

Special recognition goes to Tom Dooley, Pam Squire, and the NAMI Kent Board. Also thanks to Davenport University and the Active Minds group on campus. What a great group of people to work with this summer. Just think of what we can do in 2017.

NAMI Kent County is dedicated to the improvement of the quality of life for persons, families, and others, who are affected by mental illness, including children with serious emotional disorders, through support, education, advocacy, and research.

What new initiatives can we embark on in 2017 with the money raised from the WALK? Can you volunteer to be trained to lead one of the signature classes that are available from NAMI that our local affiliate does not presently provide for?

Some Walk Tips: Start planning NOW for the companies that you want to target for sponsorships. A lot of companies decide in January who they are going to donate to. Make sure you are cultivating relationships with them now, so you are not cold calling them. If you need help with how to ask companies for Sponsorships, you can contact Shelene Hahn, NAMIWALKS manager, in the Lansing office at

How Neuroscience Informs Treatment
Jesse Viner, MD
Yellowbrick Journal Issue IV
Continuation from fall ___________________________________________
Jesse Viner, MD, Founder & Executive Medical Director of Yellowbrick, was interviewed by Barbara Alexander, LCSW, BCD of On Good Authority, an organization which produces professional educational materials for the mental health professions.

ALEXANDER: You talk about how vulnerable the maturing brain is in emerging adulthood. What makes it more vulnerable during these years, during this life stage compared to others?

VINER: That’s a very interesting question, a very complicated question, and I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. Not only with respect to the brain but in terms of all functional systems-periods of transition always set the stage for vulnerability. When a great deal of change is going on, depending on the nature of the influences at the time, developmental outcomes might be adaptive, call it “healthy change,” or distorting.

Two basic principles are important to understand. First, the brain operates on a principle of, “use it or lose it.” Think about the “sprouting” we know occurs during emerging adulthood. If a young person sits in his room and all he does is play video games all day, he is not going to be making use of all the opportunities that are present developmentally. So “use it or lose it” is one principle. This principle of development holds true across all organ systems. The upside of that is that if a young person exercises the brain in a variety of ways, and he is also feeding it appropriately, if he is getting enough blood supply to it because he does aerobic exercise, and all of those things that we know are part of wellness, then he can optimize the potential for brain development. So “use it or lose it.”

The second principle that is important to take into consideration when thinking about the various ways the brain might change during the developmental transition from adolescence into adulthood is: “what fires together, wires together.” Throughout the lifespan, the brain organizes itself structurally around the nature of different kinds of experiences. To give you an example, one of my first professional positions was to run Northwestern Medical School’s drug clinic. I remember talking to heroin addicts, and pretty much all of them would say the same thing about the first shot of heroin – there’s nothing in this world that feels as good as that first time. This primed their brain’s reward center. Then they end up chasing that experience until hopefully, they recover.

What those individuals are describing is the way the reward and motivation systems of the brain, which are very much in play during mid-adolescence and emerging adulthood, come online together. To the extent that drug use, just as one example, kidnaps the motivation and reward system. The brain will actually wire around that, and some of the quieter or ordinary satisfactions of doing one’s homework, doing a good job, or singing in a play, or whatever those more ordinary satisfactions are, they don’t light up the reward and motivation centers. So, the brain’s development can get derailed depending on the nature of the experiences that people are exposing themselves to.

ALEXANDER: Also, I think I saw in this article something about the impact of anorexia on the brain. You spoke about the volume of the brain, and I wanted to ask you about that because that is very worrisome.

VINER: Sure. The brain needs food. The brain is our most active, high sugar, high food nutrient consuming organ. I think that speaks to its primacy in terms of survival.

So in anorexia nervosa, where people are restricting nutrition, starvation puts the brain into a mode which has very powerful consequences. We know that individuals who have driven their body weight down to a BMI of under 17 can experience a shrinkage in brain volume, witnessed under MRI, anywhere between 25 and 40%.


VINER: Cognitive problems, identity problems, and obsessional thinking – these are all brain correlates that are the downstream, down ­ line consequences of there not being enough nutrients to the brain.

Brain functioning is also involved in the development of a set of secondary problems in young people with anorexia. Young patients troubled with anorexia do not necessarily complain of hunger or weakness until collapse or near collapse. In fact, they can go a long time without eating. This is not because they are burning fat stores, per se. What happens when a person doesn’t eat is that her body will activate emergency systems that release adrenaline and cortisol. Increases in these stress hormones result in elevated blood sugar, a result of the body breaking down tissue. Because cortisol and adrenaline keep us pumped up when we sense threat – the key function of the body’s fight and flight system – not all patients dealing with anorexia feel like they’re at risk. In essence, our brain’s own risk-reward center may interfere with our ability to take action to protect ourselves.

ALEXANDER:  So that’s why common sense vanishes in anorexia?

VINER: Yes. That’s correct. In fact, distorted convictions arise and become a powerful part of identity.

ALEXANDER:  Can these things be recovered? Can a heroin addict, a young person who goes into recovery and successfully stays sober for a couple of years – can he restore that brain function? And can the anorexic who starts eating again – can healthy brain functions be restored? Or are they lost forever?

VINER: These are really important questions. These are the questions patients and their families have. There is good news about the brain’s capacity for resilience in emerging adulthood. In response to these questions, we can turn to the concept of “neuroplasticity” which is the characteristic of the brain that allows the brain to change from experience. There is evidence of neuroplasticity at all stages of the lifespan; at the same time, we also know there is stronger potential for neuroplasticity in emerging adulthood compared to later adulthood.

In essence, neuroplasticity means that the brain is open for change. The brain’s default position is to do what is familiar, do what is habitual. While our brains are open to change, change requires work.

You asked a couple of questions combined; let me parse them out. First, the question: in cases of anorexia, will the brain restore itself both in terms of size and function if nutrition is restored? The answer is ‘yes,’ very clearly, volume will be restored. Although there is still some research to be done here, of course, at the macro level, the vast majority of cognitive performance functions will be restored. A young person may continue to have a distorted experience of her body. For example, a young woman who no longer weighs 82 pounds and now weighs112 pounds – a weight which may put that person in the “lean category” for her body architecture – she may still feel obese. She may have specific cognitive distortions and impairments, but such complications would be more at a more nuanced, less global level. And, of course, each case is different.

Second, the question about the heroin addict, in contrast to anorexia, with heroin addiction there is a little bit of a different picture, and this might apply to other addictions as well. For example, the brain dysfunction associated with substance addiction might apply to certain kinds of behavioral patterns such as gambling or compulsive sex addiction. In these cases, neuroplasticity will allow the brain to re-network new neural systems based on healthy motivation – initiative and satisfaction ­ reward systems. These changes will be real, and they will be deep. However, the person may still feel a sense of loss and grief from gaining an understanding that “nothing ever felt so good.” This is sometimes true about one’s first girlfriend or boyfriend, too. Though this is a part of life in a way, substance use can sometimes provide that experience in a way that does leave some dissonance with other life experiences.

Again, over time and with working the brain in terms of different kinds of satisfactions, particularly as the brain matures, the reward system moves away from rewarding with dopamine to rewarding with oxytocin. While dopamine is the neurotransmitter that mediates that sense of kick, the high, the brief and ultimate experience; oxytocin is the attachment hormone. That’s what is being released when mom is nursing and mom and baby kind of fall asleep with each other in this woozy, “this is great” state. Oxytocin high is much more low key that dopamine high; it doesn’t have that sense of excitement and acceleration to it. Oxytocin is associated with feeling deep satisfaction and security, whereas dopamine highs feel more like, “this is great, but I may spiral out of control.” Again, there may be a sense of loss about some of the ways in which reward systems have been derailed, but they certainly can be significantly reworked in ways that people find satisfying.

A lot of what treatment is about is helping young people – and this is not a treatment of substance abuse per se, but it’s also true in a broader sense – gain distance from and control over early experiences that interfere with their current willingness and capacity to engage in secure attachments and meaningful intimate relationships. I use the word “intimate” not necessarily in a romantic sense, though it would include that.

Part of what the research shows is that attachments – secure attachments – are certainly powerful in facilitating brain maturation and functional capacities and to some extent they may be required for some aspects of it. In other words, an emerging adult can’t do the “rewiring” himself. Rewiring requires a young person to be in a relationship with others to activate brain processes so that they can be rewired in ways that are less dependent on unhealthy stimulus-reward associations. So, a lot of the focus that psychotherapies have on enhancing effective inter ­ personal relationship functioning really has a very solid brain basis to it. Secure attachment facilitates healthy brain development.

This article will be continued in the next newsletter.

5 Reasons to Meditate
Pema Chödrön
March 24, 2016___________________________________________________________________________
Yes, it’s a strange thing to do – just sit there and do basically nothing. Yet the simple act of stopping, says Pema Chödrön, is the best way to cultivate our good qualities. Here are five ways meditation makes us better people.
The mind is very wild. The human experience is full of unpredictability and paradox, joys and sorrows, successes and failures. We can’t escape any of these experiences in the vast terrain of our existence. It is part of what makes life grand – and it is also why our minds take us on such a crazy ride. If we can train ourselves through meditation to be more open and more accepting toward the wild arc of our experience, if we can lean into the difficulties of life and the ride of our minds, we can become more settled and relaxed amid whatever life brings us.

Meditation teaches us how to relate to life directly, so we can truly experience the present moment, free from conceptual overlay.

There are numerous ways to work with the mind. One of the most effective is through the tool of sitting meditation. Sitting meditation opens us to each and every moment of our life. Each moment is unique and unknown. Our mental world is seemingly predictable and graspable. We believe that thinking through all the events and to-dos of our life will provide us with ground and security. But it’s all a fantasy, and this very moment, free of conceptual overlay, is completely unique. It is absolutely unknown. We’ve never experienced this very moment before, and the next moment will not be the same as the one we are in now. Meditation teaches us how to relate to life directly, so we can truly experience the present moment, free from conceptual overlay.

We do not meditate in order to be comfortable. In other words, we don’t meditate in order to always, all the time, feel good. I imagine shockwaves are passing through you as you read this because so many people come to meditation to simply “feel better.” However, the purpose of meditation is not to feel bad; you’ll be glad to know. Rather, meditation gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on. The meditative space is like the big sky – spacious, vast enough to accommodate anything that arises.

In meditation, our thoughts and emotions can become like clouds that dwell and pass away. Good and comfortable, pleasing and difficult and painful – all of this comes and goes. So the essence of meditation is training in something that is quite radical and definitely not the habitual pattern of the species: and that is to stay with ourselves no matter what is happening, without putting labels of good and bad, right and wrong, pure and impure, on top of our experience.

Meditation gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on. The meditative space is like the big sky – spacious, vast enough to accommodate anything that arises.

If meditation were just about feeling good (and I think all of us secretly hope that is what it’s about), we would often feel like we must be doing it wrong. Because at times, meditation can be such a difficult experience. A very common experience of the meditator, in a typical day or on a typical retreat, is the experience of boredom, restlessness, a hurting back, pain in the knees, even the mind might be hurting – so many “not feeling good” experiences. Instead, meditation is about a compassionate openness and the ability to be with oneself and one’s situation through all kinds of experiences. In meditation, you’re open to whatever life presents you with. It’s about touching the earth and coming back to being right here. While some kinds of meditation are more about achieving special states and somehow transcending or rising above the difficulties of life, the kind of meditation that I’ve trained in and that I am talking about here is about awakening fully to our life. It’s about opening the heart and mind to the difficulties and the joys of life – just as it is. And the fruits of this kind of meditation are boundless.

As we meditate, we are nurturing five qualities that begin to come forth over the months and years that we practice. You might find it helpful to reconnect with these qualities whenever you ask yourself, “Why am I meditating?”

1. Steadfastness

The first quality – namely, the first thing that we’re doing when we meditate – is cultivating and nurturing steadfastness with ourselves. I was talking to someone about this once, and she asked, “Is this steadfastness sort of like loyalty? What are we being loyal to?” Through meditation, we are developing a loyalty to ourselves. This steadfastness that we cultivate in meditation translates immediately into loyalty to one’s experience of life.

Steadfastness means that when you sit down to meditate, and you allow yourself to experience what’s happening in that moment – which could be your mind going a hundred miles an hour, your body twitching, your head pounding, your heart full of fear, whatever comes up – you stay with the experience. That’s it. Sometimes you can sit there for an hour, and it doesn’t get any better. Then you might say, “Bad meditation session. I just had a bad meditation session.” But the willingness to sit there for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, a half hour, an hour, however long you sat there – this is a compassionate gesture of developing loyalty or steadfastness to yourself.

We have such a tendency to lay a lot of labels, opinions, and judgments on top of what’s happening. Steadfastness – loyalty to yourself – means that you let those judgments go. So, in a way, part of the steadfastness is that when you notice your mind is going a million miles an hour and you’re thinking about all kinds of things, there is this uncontrived moment that just happens without any effort: you stay with your experience. In meditation, you develop this nurturing quality of loyalty and steadfastness and perseverance toward yourself. And as we learn to do this in meditation, we become more able to persevere through all kinds of situations outside of our meditation, or what we call post-meditation.

2. Clear Seeing

The second quality that we generate in meditation is clear seeing, which is similar to steadfastness. Sometimes this is called clear awareness. Through meditation, we develop the ability to catch ourselves when we are spinning off or hardening to circumstances and people, or somehow closing down to life. We start to catch the beginnings of a neurotic chain reaction that limits our ability to experience joy or connect with others. You would think that because we are sitting in meditation, so quiet and still, focusing on the breath that we wouldn’t notice very much. But it is actually quite the opposite. Through this development of steadfastness, this learning to stay in meditation, we begin to form a nonjudgmental, unbiased clarity of just seeing. Thoughts come, emotions come, and we can see them ever so clearly.

In meditation, you are moving closer and closer to yourself, and you begin to understand yourself so much more clearly. You begin to see clearly without a conceptual analysis, because with regular practice, you see what you do over and over and over and over again. You see that you replay the same tapes over and over and over in your mind. The name of the partner might be different, the employer might be different, but the themes are somewhat repetitious. Meditation helps us clearly see ourselves and the habitual patterns that limit our life. You begin to see your opinions clearly. You see your judgments. You see your defense mechanisms. Meditation deepens your understanding of yourself.

3. Courage

The third quality we cultivate in meditation is one that I’ve actually been alluding to when I bring up both steadfastness and clear seeing – and it happens when we allow ourselves to sit in meditation with our emotional distress. I think it’s really important to state this as a separate quality that we develop in practice, because when we experience emotional distress in meditation (and we will), we often feel like “we’re doing it wrong.” So the third quality that seems to organically develop within us is the cultivation of courage, the gradual arising of courage. I think the word “gradual” here is very important because it can be a slow process. But over time, you will find yourself developing the courage to experience your emotional discomfort and the trials and tribulations of life.

Meditation is a transformative process, rather than a magic makeover in which we doggedly aim to change something about ourselves. The more we practice, the more we open and the more we develop courage in our life. In meditation, you never really feel that you “did it” or that you’ve “arrived.” You feel that you just relaxed enough to experience what’s always been within you. I sometimes call this transformative process “grace.” Because when we’re developing this courage, in which we allow the range of our emotions to occur, we can be struck with moments of insight. These insights could never have come from trying to figure out conceptually what’s wrong with us or what’s wrong with the world. These moments of insight come from the act of sitting in meditation, which takes courage – a courage that grows with time.

Meditation allows you to see something fresh that you’ve never seen before or to understand something new that you’ve never understood before.

Through this developing courage, we are often graced with a change in our worldview, if ever so slight. Meditation allows you to see something fresh that you’ve never seen before or to understand something new that you’ve never understood before. Sometimes we call these boons of meditation “blessings.” In meditation, you learn how to get out of your own way long enough for there to be room for your own wisdom to manifest, and this happens because you’re not repressing this wisdom any longer.

When you develop the courage to experience your emotional distress at its most difficult level, and you’re just sitting there with it in meditation, you realize how much comfort and how much security you get from your mental world. Because at that point, when there’s a lot of emotion, you begin to really get in touch with the feeling, the underlying energy, of your emotions. You begin to let go of the words, the stories, as best you can, and then you’re just sitting there. Then you realize, even if it seems unpleasant, that you feel compelled to keep reliving the memory, the story of your emotions, or that you want to dissociate. You may find that you often drift into a fantasy about something pleasant. And the secret is that, actually, we don’t want to do any of this. Part of us wants so earnestly to wake up and open. The human species wants to feel more alive and awake to life. But also, the human species is not comfortable with the transient, shifting quality of the energy of reality. Simply put, a large part of us actually prefers the comfort of our mental fantasies and planning, and that’s actually why this practice is so difficult to do. Experiencing our emotional distress and nurturing all of these qualities – steadfastness, clear seeing, courage – really shakes up our habitual patterns. Meditation loosens up our conditioning; it’s loosening up the way we hold ourselves together, the way we perpetuate our suffering.

4. Attention

The fourth quality we develop in meditation is something I’ve been touching on all along, and that is the ability to become awake to our lives, to each and every moment, just as it is. This is the absolute essence of meditation. We develop attention to this very moment; we learn to just be here. And we have a lot of resistance to just being here! When I first started practicing, I thought I wasn’t good at it. It took me a while to realize that I had a lot of resistance to just being here now. Just being here – attention to this very moment – does not provide us with any kind of certainty or predictability. But when we learn how to relax into the present moment, we learn how to relax with the unknown.

Life is never predictable. You can say, “Oh, I like the unpredictability,” but that’s usually true only up to a certain point, as long as the unpredictability is somewhat fun and adventurous. I have a lot of relatives who are into things like bungee jumping and all kinds of terrifying things – all of my nephews, particularly, and nieces. Sometimes, thinking of their activities, I experience extreme terror. But everybody, even my wild relatives, meets their edge. And sometimes the most adventurous of us meet our edge in the strangest places, like when we can’t get a good cup of coffee. We’re willing to jump off a bridge upside down, but we throw a tantrum when we can’t get a good cup of coffee. Strange that not being able to get a good cup of coffee could be the unknown, but somehow for some, maybe for you, it is that edge of stepping into that uncomfortable, uncertain space.

Meditation helps you meet your edge; it’s where you actually come up against it, and you start to lose it. Meeting the unknown of the moment allows you to live your life and to enter your relationships and commitments ever more fully. This is living wholeheartedly.

So this place of meeting our edge, of accepting the present moment and the unknown, is a very powerful place for those who wish to awaken and open their heart and mind. The present moment is the generative fire of our meditation. It is what propels us toward transformation. In other words, the present moment is the fuel for your personal journey. Meditation helps you meet your edge; it’s where you actually come up against it, and you start to lose it. Meeting the unknown of the moment allows you to live your life and to enter your relationships and commitments ever more fully. This is living wholeheartedly.

Meditation is revolutionary because it’s not a final resting place: you can always be more settled. This is why I continue to do this year after year. If I looked back and had no sense that any transformation had happened, if I didn’t recognize that I feel more settled and more flexible, it would be pretty discouraging. But there is that feeling. And there’s always another challenge, and that keeps us humble. Life knocks you off your pedestal. We can always work on meeting the unknown from a more settled and openhearted space. It happens for all of us. I too have moments where I am challenged in meeting the present moment, even after decades of meditation. Years back, I took a trip alone with my granddaughter, who was six years old at the time. It was such an embarrassing experience because she was being extremely difficult. She was saying “no” about everything, and I kept losing it with this little angel whom I adore. So I said, “Okay, Alexandria, this is between you and Grandma, right? You’re not going to tell anybody about what’s going on? You know, all those pictures you’ve seen of Grandma on the front of books? Anyone you see carrying around one of those books, you do not tell them about this!”

The point is that when your cover is blown, it’s embarrassing. When you practice meditation, getting your cover blown is just as embarrassing as it ever was, but you’re glad to see where you’re still stuck because you would like to die with no more big surprises. On your deathbed, when you thought you were Saint Whoever, you don’t want to find out that the nurse completely pushes you over the wall with frustration and anger. Not only do you die angry at the nurse, but you die disillusioned with your whole being. So if you ask why we meditate, I would say it’s so we can become more flexible and tolerant to the present moment. You could be irritated with the nurse when you’re dying and say, “You know, that’s the way life is.” You let it move through you. You can feel settled with that, and hopefully, you even die laughing – it was just your luck to get this nurse! You can say, “This is absurd!” These people who blow our cover like this, we call them “gurus.”

5. No Big Deal

The fifth and last quality regarding why we meditate is what I call “no big deal.” It’s what I am getting at when I say we become flexible to the present moment. Yes, with meditation you may experience profound insight, or the magnificent feeling of grace or blessing, or the feeling of transformation and newfound courage, but then: no big deal. You’re on your deathbed, and you have this nurse who’s driving you nuts, and it’s funny: no big deal.

This was one of the biggest teachings from my teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche: no big deal. I remember one time going to him with what I thought was a very powerful experience from my practice. I was all excited, and as I was telling him about this experience, he had a look. It was a kind of indescribable look, a very open look. You couldn’t call it compassionate or judgmental or anything. And as I was telling him about this, he touched my hand and said, “No . . . big . . . deal.” He wasn’t saying “bad,” and he wasn’t saying “good.” He was saying that these things happen and they can transform your life, but at the same time don’t make too big a deal of them because that leads to arrogance and pride, or a sense of specialness. On the other hand, making too big a deal about your difficulties takes you in the other direction; it takes you into poverty, self-denigration, and a low opinion of yourself. So meditation helps us cultivate this feeling of no big deal, not as a cynical statement, but as a statement of humor and flexibility. You’ve seen it all, and seeing it all allows you to love it all.

Back Chat Randi Silverman
BP Magazine
Summer 2016_______________________________________________________________________________

The new film, NO LETTING GO,  reflects the real-life struggles of Randi Silverman’s family after her middle son began to manifest early symptoms of bipolar disorder. The bewildering effort to figure out what was wrong and how to make it better fired her passion for helping other parents. She co-founded a support group, dove into advocacy, and wrote the script that became NO LETTING GO.

How closely does the movie mirror your own family’s experience?
My son was actually diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was nine years old and seriously ill by age 10. In the movie, we made “Tim” a teenager because the onset of mental illness during adolescence is more typical. Also, my son was treated voluntarily, but we wanted to acknowledge that is often very difficult and painful to get teens to comply with treatment. Otherwise, every scene in the movie, every conservation, actually happened in real life in some way or another.

Why expose your family’s raw pain on the screen?
It’s not my son’s fault that his brain works the way it does, any more than it is another child’s fault for having asthma or diabetes. I decided that if I didn’t talk about it honestly and without shame, then I couldn’t expect the conversation about mental health disorder to change. But I would never have put our story out there for the world to see if my family wasn’t 100 percent supportive.

Your son got the help he needed to recover. What’s he up to now?
He’s doing very well. He graduated from high school “on time” which was a huge accomplishment given how much school he missed during the years he was ill. Like other 20-year-olds, he is trying to figure out how to be an independent grown-up. His goal is to make a living as a photographer.

What kept you going during the long years of not knowing how to help?
My children needed me. It was my job to take care of them and keep them safe. But a lot of the time I was barely holding on. I cried, screamed, and felt isolated. I became so depressed and irritable at one point that I decided that it was time for me to go on medication myself. Medication helped me feel normal for the first time in years.

What helped your family heal from all the anger and blame?
Therapy, individual and as a family, and psychoeducation. Ultimately, learning that my son’s behaviors were actually manifestations of anxiety, depression and bipolar helped us work through a great deal.

How about you personally?
Peer support – being with other parents who had gone through similar experiences who “get it” – was life-saving.

Knowing what you know now, what do you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I had trusted myself more. Pediatricians, teachers, even school psychologist, told me it was “just a stage” or that my son’s behavior was the direct result of my parenting or my personal “issues.” I felt in my gut that something was not right, but I listened to everyone around me and blamed myself. But the truth is that you can’t solve a problem if you aren’t even aware that the problem can exist.

What should other parents know?
It was eye-opening to discover my son qualified as a student with a disability, which meant the school district was legally required to provide accommodations for him. I never knew to ask. There are great books and online resources out there now about special education law and agencies that will help parents advocate for their children.

Do you think anything has changed for the better in the decade since your son was diagnosed?
There are more conversations about mental health and mental illness in adults. Sadly, I don’t think there has been as much movement regarding children and adolescents. Given that 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness emerge before the age of 14 and 75 percent before the age of 24, we need to break the cycle of stigma and normalize mental illness so that it can be treated with the same respect and compassion as physical illness.

Borrowing the DVD of this movie is available from NAMI Kent County.

Get Psychiatric Help via Your Smartphone
November 16, 2016_________________________________________________________________________________

The MONARCA app combines captured data on patterns of movement and social activity with self-reported information on sleep, stress, and emotional status.

New research into digital treatment has led to the development of an app for treating people suffering from depression or bipolar disorder, preventing readmission to hospital. The Copenhagen Center for Health Technology (CACHET) is involved in the development of the app, which can determine whether patients with mental disorders are in a depressive, neutral or manic state. The data will be used to develop a digital treatment system for these patients.

Today we use our smartphones to measure anything from the number of steps we take to our eating habits and whether we are gaining or losing weight. But what if we could also use our phones to determine the development of our state of mind? This is the objective of the MONARCA project. With the help of an app, it is possible to determine whether people with affective disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are in a depressive, manic or neutral state. The app has been developed by Professor of Psychiatry at Rigshospitalet Lars Kessing and Professor of IT at DTU Jakob Bardram. The purpose of the app, which is currently undergoing clinical testing, is initially to give patients an overview of the course of their disease, says Jakob Bardram, who is also Director of CACHET.

MONARCA is a model for compiling data and establishing connections. It works almost like an automated psychiatrist, who is able to make a diagnosis based on these data: Is the patient in a depressive, manic or neutral state? This makes it possible to monitor the course of the disease and, if necessary, intervene’, Jakob Bardram says.

Patients Can Monitor the Course of Their Disease
The MONARCA model is available as a system from the company Monsenso and is currently undergoing clinical testing. The test subjects are patients who have been affiliated to Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen and in connection with their treatment have been offered to participate in the project. Each day they are required to state on a given scale what mood they are in, how much sleep they have had, whether they feel stressed and their own assessment of their level of activity. In addition, the app automatically collects information about the patient’s patterns of movement and social activity based on how the patient uses the phone. Based on this data it has been possible to document a strong connection between various behavioral parameters such as mobility and the state of disease, Jakob Bardram says.

“The idea behind the project is to give people with affective disorders a tool that enables them to register and monitor the development of their state of mind. Each day they record the status of a series of different parameters such as stress level and how many hours of sleep they have had, enabling them to compare the development to their state of mind or mood. They can use this to reflect on what affects their disease, and whether there is anything they can do”, he says.

A nurse at Rigshospitalet monitors the patient’s development on various parameters, and if she finds cause for concern, she can either contact the patient or initiate ambulant treatment. So far approximately 150 people have used the app over a period of six to nine months.

Phone Therapy

In addition to helping the individual patient monitor the pattern of his or her disease and establish connections, which the patient may be able to change, the MONARCA model is also used in a second project. Patients often need both a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Therefore, CACHET has launched a new project, the aim of which is to produce a kind of digital psychologist. The project is called RADMIS.

‘We want to use the insight into patients’ behavior provided by the data to produce an app that can help people through cognitive behavioral therapy and patient training. According to WHO, depression is the number one cause of reduced functional capacity in humans, and we do not have enough resources to give patients the help they require. We hope this new project can ease the burden on both patients and therapists, says Jakob Bardram.

RADMIS is still under development, and the team behind the project are unable to say whether the use of the app will lead to fewer or shorter readmissions to hospital. The plan is to test the RADMIS model in a large-scale clinical study to determine, among other things, whether the number of readmissions of patients suffering from depression can be reduced.

CACHET is a collaboration between the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark, the Capital Region of Denmark and the City of Copenhagen.

In Memoriam
We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Arthur
Haadsma and his family in the passing of
Arthur’s wife, Audrey, in June 2016.

BOOKS ON SCHIZOAFFECTIVE DISORDER   Schizoaffective Disorder is a diagnosis midway between the diagnosis of Schizophrenia and Bipolar I Disorder.
Susan Inman:  After Her Brain Broke:  Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity
An excellent story written by a mother whose daughter struggled with schizoaffective disorder/bipolar type for nine years and the journey it took both of them through as they dealt with the Canadian healthcare system.

Carolyn Dobbins, Ph.D.:  What a Life Can Be:  One Therapist’s Take on Schizo-Affective Disorder
Carolyn writes about her own experiences as “Judy” and how she deals with her schizoaffective disorder.  This is a bit of a hard read, but the book is still enlightening.

Stella Grey:  Candles at Home:  My Schizoaffective Disorder
Stella Grey is a pen name for Jennifer Walker.  She writes with great clarity and detail about her experiences living with schizoaffective disorder and the journey it took her through.  This is one of the best ones I have read so far (in my humble opinion).

Mark Magnant:  In Search of a Vivid Blue:  How a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder doesn’t mean the end of a functional life
This was the first “biographical” account that I read regarding SA.  It was good.

Martine Daniel:  Schizoaffective Disorder Simplified
Martine also is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.  She lives in England.  She does an excellent job of detailing the forms of SA and the various medications that are being used to treat it.  This is an excellent “must-have” book.

Helena Smole:  Balancing the Beast
Ms. Smole does a very masterful job of writing how she lives with Schizoaffective Disorder and how she finally came to acceptance of acknowledging the presence of the disorder in her life.  The book also details how she made the decision to manage her disorder through the use of medications, therapies, and the power of positive thinking to improve her personality, self-image and change her lifestyle.

Coming Soon:
We will have a lending library of books and movies.
The list of available books and movies will be posted on our website,


“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
Robert H. Schuller

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Winston Churchill

“I realize there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.”
Jeffrey McDaniel

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful that God has implanted in the human soul.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


If you shop on Amazon, you can now go to and choose “NAMI KENT COUNTY” as your charity. When you make a purchase from 0.5% of your purchase will go to NAMI.
Thank you for your support of NAMI.

NAMI membership dues changes effective as of July, 2017 will be:
Household Membership $60
Regular Membership $40
Open Door Membership $5


NAMI of Kent County general meeting is on the second Tuesday of the month from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Network 180, 790 Fuller Ave., NE, Board Room – 2nd Floor.
DECEMBER 13:  Annual Christmas party.
NAMI Basics Sign up now for the three-week class for parents/caregivers of children/adolescents exhibiting signs of mental health issues. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursday at 6 pm beginning February 28.
Please contact Gwynn Bult at or 616-485-3696.

NAMI Family to Family The next class begins Wednesday, January 18, 6:30 PM, room 109-110, Thornapple Evangelical Covenant Church, corner of Cascade and Burton. You must register for this free class. Please contact Gwynn Bult at or 616-485-3696.

NAMI Support Group Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Network 180,   790 Fuller Ave., NE, Board Room 2nd Floor.
The dates are:
December 20
January 17
February 21

Network 180 Board Meetings are held at 4:30 p.m. on the first Monday of each month.  These meetings are usually held at 790 Fuller N.E. in the Board Room, second floor and are open to the public.
The dates are: December 5, January 2, and February 6.

DBSA (Depression/Bipolar Support Alliance) of Kent County (formerly PUSHH)
A support group for persons with a depressive illness, and their families meets the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 1700 Woodward, S.E. (one block south of the old Metropolitan Hospital). For more information see or Kristin Finn’s website,

Anxiety Disorders Support Group
A weekly professionally-led support group for Anxiety Disorders (including trichotillomania and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).
Wednesdays 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m.
312 Grandville Ave.  Grand Rapids