NAMI’s Misinformation Campaign: Why Does NAMI Continue to Misinform the Public?
I get a little tired of any organization beating the same old drum over and over again, especially when the very foundation of their information is factually incorrect. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is such an organization. While I believe in their overall purpose and goals, I strongly disagree with their continuing characterizations and misinformation campaign about mental disorders.
Their misinformation campaign takes many forms and is fought on many fronts. For example, NAMI has arbitrarily categorized certain disorders which they fight hardest for as “severe mental illnesses.” There is no research support to suggest that people who suffer from schizophrenia deserve more treatment and attention than someone suffering from alcoholism, dissociative disorders, or personality disorders. NAMI practices mental health discrimination by focusing on only a subset of mental disorders, while ignoring other equally serious disorders. NAMI suggested recently that a syndicated columnist which had written a column about people with mental disorders was “viciously prejudiced.” Based upon their extreme focus on a handful of mental disorders, I would argue NAMI itself suffers a similar problem.
NAMI’s misinformation campaign is apparent in virtually every press release they issue. “Mental illnesses today are understood to be biological brain disorders, which can be successfully treated and managed at rates even greater than that for heart disease. ” The second part is correct — properly diagnosed, mental disorders can be quickly and effectively treated in most individuals. But the first part directly contradicts the Surgeon General’s own comprehensive report on mental illness.
Under the section titled, “Imaging the Brain,” in Chapter 2, the Surgeon General states, “In retrospect, early biological models of the mind seem impoverished and deterministic — for example, models that held that “levels” of (. . .) serotonin in the brain were the principal influence on whether one was depressed or aggressive.
Neuroscience is far beyond that now (. . .)”
In the section entitled, “Overview of Etiology,” the report states: “(. . . T)he causes of health and disease . . . are the result of an interaction between biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. This is true for all health and illness, including mental health and mental illness.”
In other words, the Surgeon General’s report contradicts NAMI’s characterization of mental disorders as purely or mainly “brain disorders.” They are biopsychosocial disorders, the psychological and social aspects of which NAMI largely ignores.
This isn’t the first time NAMI has been in the middle of criticism of misrepresenting the facts.