Just imagine how it would feel. You are sick and in pain, but no one can see it. There are no signs or symptoms, like fever or injury. All the same, you hurt.
According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, this is what it’s like for 60 million Americans with mental health troubles. That’s an issue for one in four adults and one in 10 children. When you take into account how this illness affects family members, friends, or coworkers, you see these numbers climb out of sight.
The Kansas City chapter of NAMI was the beneficiary of this year’s Young Matrons Magic Ball, and I served as honorary chair of the event. The Magic Ball is always a party, but it’s a party with a serious purpose.
The Young Matrons are neighbors to the UMKC campus, just across Oak Street from my office, and we make a good team supporting NAMI. People with mental illness need help and hope, and that’s what the Young Matrons and their UMKC allies want to be: a source of comfort through NAMI that reaches out to them rather than shunning them; being there for the families; and lighting the road to recovery.
It’s not always easy to identify mental illness, but it’s there. And it’s found in all segments of society. Returning veterans, high school students, the elderly, the wealthy, the drug-dependent, the people next door – it’s everywhere. It takes a widespread effort to deal with this illness.
NAMI is one of the best investments any community can make. NAMI affiliates work with crisis intervention teams to improve contacts between police and the mentally ill. They work with the families, like those of veterans, who need to understand their loved ones’ illness. Our university has counseling services for students and employees, because we don’t want people to suffer in silence. Our Counseling Center refers people in need of help to NAMI and other local sources of assistance.
Funds raised by groups like Young Matrons, or contributed by foundations and corporations, are a mainstay of NAMI. Contributions have underwritten the costs for a toll-free helpline, for education and for research into conditions such as bipolar disorder.
NAMI promises that, as long as there is a need, they will be there. Let’s meet them halfway. We can all get behind this effort, by informing ourselves, becoming advocates for the mentally ill, or relating a story that gives hope and shows others that there are people in their corner.
Let’s work some magic.