RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News continues to raise awareness about people fighting and winning their battles with mental illness in the Richmond area.
8News Anchor Amy Lacey spoke with Kathy Harkey, Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Central Virginia (NAMI Central Virginia) about what resources are available in this community.
Harkey says the first step is for anyone who is suffering in silence to see a doctor. It can be a family physician, psychiatrist or local community services board. A diagnosis will help mental health professionals devise a treatment plan for the individual.
“We have come a long way in the mental health field. There are outstanding treatments available, good medications and people do live good quality lives,” Harkey explains. “Recovery is possible, which doesn’t mean the illness will go away, but it means that a person can live a good quality life without the illness being the dominating factor in his or her life.”
She adds, “Stigma is huge when mental illness affects a person. They’re scared, they’re hurting. They have a medical condition and it can be treated, but they’re afraid to step out for help often because of stigma. And the families, they don’t know where to turn for help either.”
Harkey says there are three phone numbers anyone battling a mental illness needs to know:
- NAMI Central Virginia “Warm Line”: 804-285-1749
*Between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30pm a Richmond-area NAMI staff member or retired social worker is available when individuals just needs to talk with someone. If there is no answer, leave a message. It will be returned within four hours.
- NAMI National HelpLine: 800-950-6264
*Staff and volunteers can be reached Monday through Friday, 10am until 6 pm. They can answer questions about mental health issues including symptoms, treatment options, local support groups and services, education programs, helping family members get treatment, programs to help find jobs and legal issues.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
*It is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline. It is designed for anyone in crisis or who just needs to talk about suicidal thoughts.
NAMI Central Virginia also has several peer support groups and others for family members. An updated list of workshops and support services can be found here.
Harkey applauds 8News for taking the lead on this issue.
“I do think that it will help to reduce stigma because so many people don’t understand mental illness. They maybe just remember something bad that happened, but those actually are not the majority of cases. And I feel that when the truths of mental illness come out and people actually learn to understand it for what it’s all about, then it will reduce stigma and it will help the sick, the people who are hurting and coming down with a mental illness. It will be able to step out and help them get the help that they need because mental illnesses are a treatable medical condition.”