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December 7, 2015 | Volume 91 Number 3


Mental health issues affect entire family

Thank you for your article about persons diagnosed with a mental illness and the importance of including them and supporting their families. There is no other illness that can cause such isolation due to the stigma that surrounds this diagnosis.

I am the daughter of a man who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was 6 years old. I grew up with this illness and know first hand the heartaches, challenges and loneliness that families encounter trying to get help for their loved one.

While in nursing school, I was introduced to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I cannot say enough good things about this organization. I have never felt more at home than with other NAMI families that have travelled a similar path to my own.

There is such an acceptance, validation, and understanding that exists among the loved ones who have had this unwelcome and unwanted lived experience. Finding others that you can confidentially share your stories with and know that they will not judge you, or your relative, is such a help.

Families carry a heavy burden, often silently, due to the stigma that surrounds these illnesses.

NAMI offers support at local support groups that meet regularly, education through the many programs they have developed, and advocacy to improve the systems of care that families and their loved ones depend on for treatment.

I am a retired psychiatric nurse. One of my clients once pointed out to me that my life had come full circle. Their observation was so true.

Mental illness was thrust upon me as a young child creating chaos and confusion in our family. I grew up and went off to have my own life, which was much more peaceful.

Then in my midlife, I returned to school to become a nurse. Looking back, it is amazing to see how God put people in my life that nudged me toward the very thing that I had escaped years ago, my father’s mental illness. I now take that experience and use it to help others.

Sharing my experiences through NAMI’s Programs is personally rewarding and also healing for me and I hope for others.

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Mental Health First Aid can support families


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Thank you for publishing Jennifer Neville’s article, “Our common brotherhood with the mentally ill.”

My hope is that the Diocese will continue to offer the Mental Health First Aid course to pastoral leadership so that these leaders will not only recognize the signs of addiction and mental illness, but also know where and how to provide support.


Reform, not expand, affordable healthcare

The panel discussion Oct. 8 in Norfolk with Judaeo Christian and Muslim clergy, addressed that affordable healthcare would be available to almost 400,000 more individuals, if the Virginia General Assembly expands.

“The Federal Government would cover most of the costs,” according to the director of VA Consumer Voices for Healthcare.

The panel needs to know VA Medicaid is already in trouble due to millions going to fraudulent, unqualified recipients. There’s also the issue of legitimate patients finding it harder an harder to locate doctors who will take Medicaid, due to very poor payment policy.

Those on Medicaid and really needy are struggling now to get care in a system that needs investigation and reform. Adding 400,000 more people, who had affordable care before ACA, because they now find their policies unaffordable, makes no sense.

It would be adding to the number of people getting poorer care if any, unnecessarily, while further hurting those most in need.

The panel should put its influence behind Medicaid Reform in Virginia.

The Wall Street Journal has reported 23 states are now trying to back out of Medicaid Expansion, as federal funds will come to an end, and costs to the state are much higher than stated predictions.

These states now see themselves being bankrupt in the near future. The greed of our state leaders for federal funds should not be allowed to take priority over really helping those in need of good healthcare, when they know Medicaid is already in trouble, and any federal funds are temporary.

Hopefully a replacement for our current Affordable Care Act, with much lower costs through free market competition across state lines, Tort Reform, and optional Health Savings Accounts, (a system working very satisfactorily before ACA), will lift the heavy burden of unaffordable healthcare costs from everyone else, including employers, in the near future.


CV commended for raising awareness

I commend you for your recent story on mental health issues (Our common brotherhood with the mentally ill, Nov. 9, 2015) and how Catholics have numerous opportunities in the local parish to minister to those who need support when they are in the midst of lonely and troubled times. This is a subject that is particularly meaningful to me as I am a clinical social worker at Commonwealth Catholic Charities in Richmond. Along with others counselors in Richmond, Charlottesville and Norton, we daily serve those who find themselves in need of professional counseling.

 We work with individuals on issues that run the gamut of anxiety, depression, family crisis, marriage counseling and bipolar disorder. In addition, we hold group meetings that provide anger management, batterers’ intervention counseling and counseling for other destructive behaviors.

As we listen to our clients and community, we respond to their ever-changing needs. In the last two years, we have increased the number of our bilingual Spanish counselors to three and because we have seen an increase in childhood anxiety, we have two play therapy rooms that make counseling more adaptable to the needs of children.

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