NAMI Walks: Changing minds
one step at a time
goal of Saturday’s 5K

April 30, 2014
Santa Paula News

With John, the bursts of anger started suddenly and within days escalated to the point where the sheriffs were called... again and again.

Although John’s wife June told deputies she was baffled and alarmed by her husband’s complete change in behavior, “They said there was nothing they could do,” a few even appearing disinterested in his outbursts.

Once or twice an officer would tell June they could only get involved if John threatened to harm himself or others.

Within a few short weeks John’s break was complete: he took a baseball bat to the garage, wrecking it and tried to drive off with the couple’s only child. After June got the child out of the car John deliberately rammed a parked vehicle. John also told June he was going to kill himself.

This time when June called the police she was able to tell them that John had threatened to harm himself and when asked by the officers he confirmed the statement. 

John was taken for a mental health evaluation; doctors found he had abruptly discontinued taking the medication he had been prescribed for bouts of depression that surfaced after his company almost closed and he was laid off and a chronic health condition he had worsened.

Stopping the anti-depressants without notifying his doctor-who would have advised the correct way of weaning off such medication-had triggered a psychotic break.

John was hospitalized for a week before he was released and now takes medication for a bipolar illness.

And June has become active with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Ventura County, an organization that offers programs that include support, education and advocacy involving schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD and severe anxiety disorders.

June, who went through NAMI’s Family-To-Family program, will be among those Saturday enjoying a day at the beach at NAMI Walks.

Changing minds one step at a time is the goal of the May 3 walk, the largest and most successful mental health awareness and fundraising event in the nation.

The 5K Walk will be held at the Ventura Beach Promenade; check-in will begin at 9 a.m. and the walk will start at 10:30 a.m. 

“How often do you have the chance to enjoy a beautiful beachfront stroll and help thousands of people at the same time?” asked Walk Manager Roberta Rodriguez, a NAMI VC board director.

Last year’s event drew, “Close to 1,000 people and this year we’re trying to get at least 1,200, although our goal is 1,500 walkers,” said Rodriguez.

More than $166,000 was raised in last year’s walk, and this year’s goal is $200,000. 

NAMI VC programs help families, educators, law enforcement and health care professionals understand mental illness.  

June is confident the female deputy who “asked the right questions and showed the most concern,” and finally dealt with John was Crisis Team Intervention trained, a NAMI program for law enforcement on how to recognize and deal with those experiencing mental illness.

Following John’s breakdown, June was referred to NAMI’s Family-to-Family program, a new concept in education for those affected by serious mental illness and addictive disorders. 

Created by experienced family members and mental health professionals, the program is taught by specially trained family members of those with mental illnesses. 

Participants learn everything from normal reactions when mental illness strikes a family and different mental illnesses to getting through a critical period and advocacy.

The 12-week program also covers self-care and how those with mental illness in their family can balance their own lives.

June didn’t know what to expect, but said she was pleased with the program, where she not only gained knowledge but also got to know others with similar experiences and challenges. 

“I understand what occurred with John more now,” and June has gained insight into mental illness, knowledge that has made her more confident.

“I now know what to do ,” said June, “if it happens again... “ 

“Brain disorders affect as many as one in four Americans, so the lives of thousands of people in Ventura County are touched by these illnesses,” said Ratan Bhavnani, executive director of NAMI Ventura County. “Walking along the beautiful beachfront to support NAMI Ventura County is a blast and a chance to do something positive and fun,” while benefiting programs and raising awareness of mental illness.

Registration is free for participants, who are encouraged to collect donations. To register for the walk, donate, become a sponsor or for more information, visit www.namiwalks.org/venturacounty or contact NAMI VC at (805) 641-2426.





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