Message from Pamela J. Baker, CEO of NAMI of Collier County
Reprint of a recent commentary posted in our March 2018 Newsletter.
FIGHTING FICTION WITH FACTS
Less than 1% of individuals with mental illnesses ever become violent.
As a mother and grandmother, I was broken hearted hearing the all-too-familiar news last month of yet another mass shooting tragedy in Parkland. As the CEO of NAMI of Collier County, I was also deeply concerned that once again, in both local and national media, there have been some misguided statements about people with mental illnesses. On behalf of NAMI of Collier County and those affected by mental illnesses, I wanted to share the following accurate statistics to help our community understand and advocate for those in need. Without treatment, a person’s symptoms, which may include paranoia, delusions, or mania, escalate. This can lead to incarceration, homelessness, suicide, and violent acts. Lives are lost or ruined. Mental health providers can engage these individuals with specialized, assertive interventions, and help get them on the road to recovery, but these services are costly and relatively scarce in our grossly underfunded mental health system. Historically Florida has ranked 49th in the US in state funding for mental health services—sadly, recent reports show we’ve dropped to 50th.
What can you do as citizens and neighbors? Instead of fear, disdain, or contempt, embrace people for who they are — human beings experiencing a difficult time, who can benefit from your empathy, understanding, and support.
Help is available in our community.
Collier County has a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program, held at NAMI five times a year, which trains law enforcement officers in effective techniques for de-escalating crisis situations involving people with mental illnesses. The Collier County Sheriff’s Office alone (not including Naples Police Department) received over 4,730 calls for CIT services in the past year. This is an increase in over 1,000 calls over the same period the year before. If you believe someone needs assistance, you can call the Sheriff’s non-emergency number, 239-252-9300, or 911 if it is an emergency, and ask for a CIT officer to come onsite. They will ensure everyone’s safety, calm the situation, and get the person the help they need. Unfortunate incidents are averted in this way every day.
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illnesses) of Collier County provides advocacy, education, and support so people affected by mental illness can build better lives. All services are provided free of charge to the community. If you are seeking support or need information on how to better understand or manage a mental health challenge in yourself, a loved one, or even a neighbor, you are not alone. NAMI is here for you.