Local advocate says mental health system broken

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The tragedy in Arizona has re-ignited much debate about mental health care in America--and what to do.  Says Clarice Raichel, local NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) Director,  "The mental health system is broken. And even if you do know that your family member needs help, there may be a chance that you can get help but many times there's not."

And though the issues now take center stage there are remain many unanswered questions about Jared Loughner--what was his diagnosis and medical history, was he ever seen by mental health professionals.  Raichel says the most critical needs are-- better mental health care.."First of all how do we get more mental health care. Every year we advocate. Every year we advocate for better mental health services and it never seems to change. But if we don't do something about the mental health system, this will continue to happen."

And perhaps no less urgent, the need to remove the stigma of mental illness so that families seek help. Says Raichel, "The stigma is so bad against mental illness a lot of time families will not come out and say I have a family member with mental illness and they wait until it's completely out of hand."

She is convinced education will play a key role in identifying those who need help and getting them treatment. "Once you become educated you have a better handle on knowing where to go to seek help and what exactly is happening. It doesn't give you all the answers, but it gives you a start."

NAMI is the nation's largest grass roots mental health organization dedicated to making life better for individuals and families affected by mental illness.

NAMI SWLA has classes throughout the year on topics aimed at helping families who have a child or other member with mental illness.  For more information or to call NAMI SWLA click here.

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