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NAMI Southern Arizona heads into classrooms to end the silence of mental illness

A sad reminder that we need to be very careful in how we approach conversations about mental illness.
Posted at 5:48 PM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 09:50:55-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Southern Arizona reports one in five children between the ages of 13 and 18 will experience a serious mental illness.

“With the onset of the pandemic and especially with young, not just young people, I mean a lot of people are getting depressed because of the isolation because things are not normal for them,” said Christina Bickelmann, executive director of NAMI Southern Arizona.

She explained her team has noticed a spike in people reaching out.

“One of the things that we've been noticing is that we're getting a lot more calls and a lot more people are looking for support groups,” said Bickelmann.

As a parent, NAMI said behaviors to look out for include:

  • changes in school performance
  • excessive worry or anxiety,
  • hyperactive behavior
  • frequent nightmares
  • frequent disobedience or aggression
  • frequent temper tantrums

One program NAMI is offering to local schools to educate kids about mental illness and how to get help is called Ending the Silence.

“We recruit young people under 35 who have presented with a mental illness in their middle school [and] high school years. We have those presenters talk to the kids, because they can really relate, they can you know they can say this is how I was feeling,” said Bickelmann.

In the last month, NAMI offered 30 presentations.

“The school districts where we used to have to go out and, you know, kind of convinced them, they're coming to us in droves wanting this to just, like, wanting all of their students to get these presentations,” said Bickelmann.

NAMI is working to secure more funds to keep the presentations as they are free of charge for schools.