Mental Health America Indiana Blog

Mental Health America Indiana Blog. Keeping your mental health informed.

Entertaining for a Cause

This past Tuesday was the annual MHAI "Hoosier Idol" event that features legislators doing what they do best - not passing bills, but singing, playing the trumpet, dancing and even yodeling.  This year's event was the most well attended  and there were five acts  - the Bill Friend Group, Melanie and The Wright to Work  It group, Sen. Mark Messmer, Senators Pete Miller and Erin Houchin, and Ed Roberts.  Our three celebrity judges - Angela Buchman, WTHR, Abdul-Hakm Shabazz, Indypolitics.prg. and Jim Shella, WISH-TV and WFYI -  were tough but offered hilarious insights into each performance. The 2015 Hoosier Idol winners were Senators Pete Miller and Erin Houchin who sang and fantastic rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside".  And Elvis himself opened the show!


It is fun with a reason.  The money we raise at this event helps to fund the great work of all of our subsidiaries (which you can read about in the toolbar above).  From improving the mental health of our youngest and most vulnerable to our coalition on aging, MHAI covers the life spectrum and offers services to meet the needs of all Hoosiers.  Serious Mental Illness impacts more than 12,000 Hoosiers annually, many going undiagnosed and untreated.  Thankfully we have help in this battle for mental wellness - resources like NAMI Indiana, Key Consumer, the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction and others like Mental Health America chapters, provide much needed services to communities.


Sure, watching legislators and lobbyists sing and dance and step outside their statehouse personae is entertaining to say the least - and good fun - but it's all for a worthy promote mental health and wellness and reduce the stigma of mental illness.  So to all of our performers, sponsors, and those who attended thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  Your willingness to share your talents helps us share our crucial services in the year to come.

Make plans to attend 2016

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Sleep Like A Baby So You Don't Act Like One

Sleep Like A Baby So You Don't Act Like One

This is reposted from an article in Science Daily, March 25, 2105


A person's loss of sleep can be connected to their likelihood of reacting emotionally to a stressful situation.

That is one of the recent findings included in a new book, Sleep and Affect: Assessment, Theory and Clinical Implications, co-edited by a University of Arkansas psychology professor and his former doctoral student. Affect is a term in psychology that describes a broad range of emotional experiences.

"In our study, we wanted to find out if there was a link between the loss of sleep and our emotional response," said Matthew T. Feldner, a professor of psychology in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. "We saw that if a person lost a night of sleep they responded with more emotion to a laboratory 'stressor.' This finding extended previous work that had linked chronic sleep loss to anxiety and mood disorders."

Feldner co-edited Sleep and Affect with Kimberly A. Babson, a health science specialist at the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Menlo Park, California. Babson earned her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Arkansas.

Sleep and Affect summarizes research on the interplay of sleep and various components of emotion and affect that are related to mood disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and depression.

"One of the themes that emerged across these chapters is that certain components of emotion seem particularly linked to sleep," Feldner said. "What we call 'stressors' tend to be more emotionally arousing for people who haven't slept well, and emotional arousal also appears to interfere with sleep quality."

Babson conducted sleep-and-affect studies at the U of A under a National Institutes of Health research training fellowship. That research spurred her's and Feldner's interest in a book that synthesizes the latest research into the interrelationships between sleep and affect.

"We present this information in a way that will help clinicians both assess for sleep problems and problems related to anxiety or mood, when a patient is seeking treatment for one and maybe not the other," he said. "By improving sleep, we might improve our treatments for anxiety problems."

This book also includes the latest findings in neuroscience related to sleep loss. There appear to be effects of sleep loss on the functioning of the emotional regulation circuit of the brain, Feldner said.

"Some of the neurobiological structures that we think are involved in regulating emotional or affective experiences don't seem to function the same after we lose sleep as they do when we are fully rested," he said.

More information on the book can be found at :


How To Get A Better Night's Sleep

1.  Cut Out Caffeine - stop drinking caffeine at least 6 hours before you go to bed.  It can take up to 8 hours for caffeine to leave your body, so consuming coffee or anything with caffeine before bed will interrupt your sleep

2.  Dont Drink Alcohol - that glass of wine or cocktail after dinner might make you drowsy and fall asleep more easily, but it will interrupt your sleep and make you more restless

3.  Check Your Bedroom - make sure it is dark, quiet, and cool.  Don't check your phone or other LEDs (light emitting devices) while you are in bed because it keeps your senses stimulated.

4.  Eat right, sleep tight! - certain foods naturally induce sleep and could help you relax and sleep more restfully.  Those include tuna, pumpkin, artichokes, almonds, eggs, peaches, walnuts, potatoes, and bananas.  Just make sure you aren't eating anything that will give you indigestion.

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5172 Hits

A Shooting Star - Reflections on the Death of Robin Williams - written by Lisa Hutcheson, Mental Health America of Indiana

A Shooting Star - Reflections on the Death of Robin Williams - written by Lisa Hutcheson, Mental Health America of Indiana

A lot has been written about the death of Robin Williams this week.  He couldn't overcome his struggle with depression and ultimately ended his life.  The public reaction has ranged from sadness and grief to anger over his so called "selfish act".  Why has his death it most of us so hard?  Maybe it's because he always seemed so happy and full of life, and he provided us with so much entertainment through his many memorable roles.  Maybe it's because Hollywood celebrities don't seem like "real" people who should have "real" problems, like addiction and depression...that's what we all experience, not "them".  If a wealthy celebrity can't get the help they need to successfully treat their mental health issues, what does that mean for the rest of us?

The death of Robin Williams impacts all of us for different reasons, but I think most of us would agree that it is tragic because we know that the right treatment works and recovery is possible.  We could spend the rest of our lives wondering "what if" - what if he had received treatment earlier, what if he had tried a different medication, what if he had  been more successful with overcoming his addiction?  We will never know the answers to those questions, unfortunately.  But we can take this terrible tragedy and find the useful.


1.  Depression is the most common mental illnesses with more than 16 million adults 18 and older in the US experiencing depression in the last year.

2.  Depression is a chronic condition that can impact anyone at any age, and the symptoms are as different as the people who experience it.

3.  There is not only treatment that will work for everyone and sometimes it takes months or years to figure out what works.

4.  The early detection of mental illness, and the right treatment, can ensure that people with mental illness can recover and live a full and complete life.  Everyone should have access to help, regardless of their ability to pay for medications and treatment.

My own family has been impacted by suicide with the death of my aunt a few years ago.  She, like Williams, was being treated but unfortunately that treatment was not enough for her to overcome her despair.  It's too late for people like my aunt and Robin Williams, but it's not too late for others in our lives that are living with this disease and may not be able to reach out for help.  It's our responsibility to love and support those in our lives who have mental illness.

From the Robin Williams' movie "Jack":  "Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night.  And when the shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day...make a wish and think of me.  Make your life spectacular.  I know I did."

Robin Williams was a shooting star who left our universe too soon.  Let us take his death and think about how it can propel us to make our lives, and the lives of others, spectacular.

If you are experiencing feelings of overwhelming sadness or have thoughts of suicide, please reach out to someone.  There is help - call 

1-800-273 TALK (8255) or go to for more information



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A Champion On and Off the Field

A Champion On and Off the Field

On June 13, 2014, Mental Health America of Indiana will host our 17th annual Symposium on Mental Health.  This year's theme is "Building Resiliency in Our Most Vulnerable".  There are many populations that are considered "vulnerable" in our society: children, elderly, and homeless to name a few. Most of us would never include NFL Super Bowl Champion in group,  but there is at least one Super Bowl Champion who includes himself.  Keith O'Neil, who was part of the Super Bowl XVI Championship Colts team, was fighting a battle off the field with a formidable opponent - Bi-Polar Disorder.

Bi-Polar Disorder, or what was once called "Manic Depression", is a brain disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood and behavior.  Like other mental illnesses, people with BPD may also abuse substances to "self medicate" or because of their severe changes in behavior.  BPD impacts professional and personal relationships, as well as physical health.   Keith talks about his diseases on his in his weekly blog posts.  The following is one of his recent posts.  Join us on June 13th and hear more of Keith's inspiring story in person!

Going Public

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010. I kept the news of my illness secret from nearly everyone I knew for almost three years. That included my friends and extended family.  I was learning to live with my newly diagnosed illness and it’s symptoms as well as the insecurities that came with it. I didn’t want anyone to know, not to due to any embarrassment  but because I was scared and I was sick, I didn't know how to handle it.

At the time of my first severe bipolar episode I had a great job in a great industry. I was working with orthopedic surgeons in medical device sales.  At the apex of my mania I went on disability.  After just two weeks I forced myself to return to work out of fear others would figure out what was going on with me. It wasn’t the best idea but I was swimming in uncharted waters with no idea what to do.  It was me vs. bipolar. I was the one making the decisions not my doctor. At work I tried very hard to act “normal” but it was very difficult. The day to day of my job was very high stress.  My days were spent in the operating room with the surgeon and his staff assisting them on the proper usage of  my company’s surgical instrumentation. It wasn’t easy in the best of conditions; it was pretty difficult in my bipolar state. Even though I was very reliable and well liked, the job was too much for me during that time.

In 2011, one year after my diagnosis,  I resigned from my job because I was too sick to work.  I was also feeling inadequate because I had recently turned down a promotion. I wasn’t quite ready for the corporate jump. I couldn’t even take care of myself how could I add more stress to my life? Without a job or anything to serve as purpose to life my depression only got worse. I remained secluded in my home and slept most of the day. Even when  awake I was completely useless. I couldn’t do anything. My depression lasted for eighteen long months. I gained almost fifty pounds and my physical health declined right along with my mental health. It was the first time I had experienced true depression. This prompted me to realize that depression is real; it’s not just a mental weakness. It was very frustrating not only for me but for my wife and family. I needed help.  I was very ill, mentally.

By August of 2013 my health had improved greatly due to many factors, including adjustments to my medications, talk therapy and time.  My family and I were living in Arizona and I was trying to find the purpose I once had in my life, to this end I began looking for a new job. Eventually I was offered a job in construction sales. The offer had prompted me to do some online research about the company and the position I was going to take. I also began researching how to handle bipolar disorder in the workplace because of the experience I had in the past. I came across a webpage that discussed how to handle bipolar disorder in the workplace.  I now was hopeful things would be better this time around.

After reading several other websites on the topic a common theme emerged.  They advised not to share your bipolar diagnosis with anyone in the workplace.  If you must do so, only share it with a few trusted co-workers.  Unfortunately, I found it unfortunate that I agreed with this advice because during the most difficult times I had experienced in the workplace what I needed was to share my illness with whomever I wished. Yet,  I agree with this advice and I understand why this advice was given.  Mental illness has always been a very secretive and personal type of illness.  Some may go so far as to call it taboo and it has certainly been stigmatized.  Society has yet to accept or fully understand it.  So why should the workplace be any different?  I assume most co-workers, clients, bosses, etc. might have a difficult time understanding mental illness and how to handle it and by extension how to interact with those affected by it.

 I went an entire hellish year keeping my illness a secret at work before I resigned.  So when I read these webpages it struck a nerve; and  even  though I agreed and understood with what it said, it still struck a nerve.  I instantly felt sympathy for anyone who lives with a mental illness that has to balance it with the demands of the workplace. I couldn’t help but think about myself a couple years prior and how I wish I had shared it with whomever I needed to at work. In fact, I wish I had told everyone I knew that I had a mental illness but I didn’t know how. Having been an athlete, especially a professional athlete, my life has always been very public.  Now, for the first time in my life I was living in with a secret and a big one at that. The social isolation was debilitating.  I went from winning the Super Bowl to unemployed, alone and mentally ill in less than three years. My fall from grace.

By the time I had finished reading those websites, I had already decided to immediately create a Facebook fan page that would share my bipolar disorder with the world. WiIhthin minutes it was done. Once it was finished, I didn’t hesitate to hit the share button. And there it was.   The secret I kept for three years was out, the oppressive secret I had kept was lifted away by sharing.  It was a big deal for me but I was relieved.  It was a weight off my shoulders and a burden to heavy to hold anymore.  People now knew why I had disappeared and the rumors of my illness were now confirmed.  I no longer had to hide and I could now move forward. I now realize the Facebook page wasn't for anyone else but me.  It was so I could breathe. After sharing I took my son to Costco. It was there that I decided to turn down the construction sales job and devote the rest of my life to raising mental health awareness....I then bought twenty rolls of paper towels.  I was moving on. 


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The Enemy At Home - Veterans addicted and dying from VA Pain Pills, Investigative Report by CH 13

The Enemy At Home - Veterans addicted and dying from VA Pain Pills, Investigative Report by CH 13
Whistleblowers say military doctors and VA have overprescribed powerful narcotics for more than a decade.

An Eyewitness News investigation shows thousands of US soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines survived the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan only to be ambushed back home by an unexpected enemy. Military records and independent studies obtained by 13 Investigates show many returning veterans received staggering amounts of powerful narcotics to treat their physical and emotional wounds. Veterans and military insiders are now coming forward to expose the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ flawed and dangerous pain management program. They insist that program accidentally killed returning servicemen and destroyed thousands of lives.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./13 Investigates

INDIANAPOLIS - As a boy growing up in southern Indiana, Jeremy Brooking knew he wanted to serve his country.

“Ever since I was little, I knew that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a Marine,” he says. “Becoming a Marine, it was a dream come true.”

That dream was cut short by an Iraqi sniper.

Barely a year after his graduation from Mitchell High School, the new Marine was on patrol in Fallujah. Brooking was looking for signs of trouble – insurgents planting road-side explosives or suicide bombers – when his observation post came under attack.

“I just heard this pop and flew backwards. I knew I was shot,” he told WTHR, looking down towards his chest.

A single armor-piercing round penetrated Brooking's bullet-proof vest and lodged between his heart and his spine. As medics rushed him to surgery, fellow Marines placed an urgent phone call to Brooking’s wife and then handed the phone to Jeremy for what was characterized as a final phone call.

“They told me it was really bad,” recalls Tia Brooking, unable to hold back tears. “I remember telling him I love him, but I didn't want him to know I knew he probably wasn’t going to make it.”

He did make it. Despite being pronounced dead twice before surgery, despite suffering a brain injury due to massive blood loss, despite having a bullet lodged millimeters from his heart that doctors believed to be too dangerous to remove, the 19-year-old Marine survived the sniper attack and was sent to Camp Lejeune, NC, to recover.

That's when Brooking discovered a new enemy the military hadn’t discussed with him.

“Getting shot was just the beginning. After I got home, that's when the real battle began,” he said.

1 Veteran + 1 Year = 15,000 Pills

The battle Brooking is talking about is an addiction to pain killers. Military doctors prescribed him 22 different medications -- many of them powerful narcotics like Oxycontin and Hydrocodone -- to numb his chest pain. A VA hospital gave Brooking 43 pills a day. That’s nearly 1,300 pills a month. More than 15,000 pills a year. A 1-month supply of medication filled a plastic grocery bag.

“I lost three years of my life where I barely remember anything,” he said. “I'd sleep 23 out of 24 hours of the day because of those pills. It destroyed our family. It really destroyed me.”

Tia Brooking saw her childhood sweetheart turn into a different person. He rarely talked. He could barely walk. He fell asleep while eating cereal.

When she complained to doctors at the VA hospital and asked for a different pain treatment, she received bad news.

“The doctor said 'Your husband is never going to get better. This is how he's always going to be.' And I said 'What can I do?' And he said 'I can write you any prescription you want. Tell me what you want, and I'll write it.' He said 'I'm in the business of writing prescriptions.' I remember him saying that, and I said 'I don't want prescriptions. I want him to get better,” she recalls, shaking her head. “It was horrible. Sometimes … when I got home, I thought he was going to be dead.”

“Inexcusable” increase

Brooking’s experience is far from unique.

Data obtained by Eyewitness News shows tens of thousands of veterans are addicted to opioid pain killers since returning from combat – and the amount of narcotics prescribed by the military healthcare system is staggering.

At the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, the number of prescriptions issued for both hydrocodone and morphine jumped more than 400% in the decade following 9-11. The dramatic increase, documented by The Center for Investigative Reporting, far outpaced the VA’s center’s 43% increase in patients during the same time period.

The jump is even bigger at the VA system in Marion, Ind. The number of prescriptions written for hydrocodone climbed 639% and morphine prescriptions skyrocketed 1,252% between 2001 and 2012. During that time, the number of patients at the Marion VA increased 63%, according to CIR’s analysis.

It's a similar story at VA facilities all over the country, and Dr. Pamela Gray saw it firsthand.

“This is inexcusable, it really is,” she said.

Gray was a doctor at the VA Medical Center in Hampton, Va., from 2008 to 2010.

“The patients that I came across, it was not at all unusual to get 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 tablets per 30 days,” she said. “These were excessive amounts, often mailed to the patient’s home and the patient didn't even have to come in for a visit. This is gross malpractice.”

Gray remembers the VA issuing a prescription for painkillers to a veteran who, just 48 hours earlier, had been released from the VA emergency room after she attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on the exact same medication.

“Doctors were told ‘Give the patient what [they] want,’ and when I questioned that, I was met with resistance,” Gray told 13 Investigates.

Gray recommended new policies to reduce the amount of narcotics prescribed at the VA and to wean patients off opioids in favor of alternative pain treatments. When her supervisors repeatedly balked at those suggestions, the doctor turned whistleblower. She shared her eyewitness accounts with state and federal lawmakers.

The VA eventually fired Gray after she publicly complained about its policies for prescribing pain medication. The doctor believes the VA medical system is still entrenched in a culture that relies too heavily on treating pain with narcotics.

“I don't care how entrenched it is. It doesn't give you the right to kill people under the guise of medicine,” she says.

Rising death toll

13 Investigates has discovered narcotics overdoses have been killing veterans at an alarming rate.

In Indiana alone, an average of 24 Hoosier veterans died each year from 2008 to 2011 because of opioid-related overdoses. Nationwide, the death toll is much higher.

“It's such a terrible loss to lose a child. It's a part of your heart that is cut out and gone forever,” said Judy Pilgrim.

Pilgrim’s son, Lance, is among those veterans who survived a foreign war, then later died from an overdose of pain medication back home.

“We never thought about the battle going on after he got back from the war. We felt like once he got back here safe, he was OK,” she said.

Lance Pilgrim was deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a rocket launch specialist in the U.S. Army. He returned to Daingerfield, Tex., with no physical injuries. But he had terrible nightmares about the horrors he experienced during his deployment.

“He was very quiet and withdrawn. I had never seen him like that,” said his father, Randy. “He was really struggling but he didn’t want to really talk about it.”

Like many soldiers returning from Iraq, Pilgrim was suffering from severe emotional pain. When he later broke a finger playing football at Fort Sill, Okla., no one understood the significance of what was about to happen.

Army doctors prescribed Pilgrim Oxycontin and Oxycodone for his finger pain, and a downward spiral followed. The opioids helped Pilgrim numb his debilitating depression and anxiety triggered by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“It was a seriously addictive painkiller, and I was shocked they'd give it to him for a broken finger,” his father said. “They also gave him Hydrocodone for a root canal. He got hooked on pills after that. At one particular time, he called me on a cell phone, and I picked my son up sleeping in a dumpster. That’s how serious it had gotten.”

Lance began going AWOL from his army post and, upon the advice of his parents, finally reached out for help.

“He went to his commanding officer and said ‘I have a problem,’ and he was told 'You do not have a problem. Go back to the barracks,' his mother said.

Pilgrim eventually got into to a VA treatment program for PTSD. But doctors there prescribed him even more narcotics – even though his medical chart warned he had battled opioid addiction. Just days later, a few miles from his childhood home, the young veteran was found dead inside a motel room. The official cause of death: accidental drug overdose from too much Methadone and Hydrocodone.

VA responds

The Department of Veterans Affairs is aware of the many overdose deaths that have occurred nationwide involving veterans addicted to narcotics.

“We acknowledge it’s a significant problem. Any person who dies from overdose of prescription opiod use is too much,” said Dr. Matt Bair, a pain management doctor at the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. “There has been an over-reliance on medication therapy… and these increased rates of prescription use have been done with the absence of new research showing this is a good thing.”

Bair says the VA realizes it now needs to reduce the high levels of narcotics dispensed to veterans – especially those suffering from PTSD and other psychological disorders.

“We've learned that [opioids] may be harming some patients and that may not be the most safe and effective approach,” he told WTHR.

Victims’ families say they’ve known that for years, and veterans like Jeremy Brooking have simply given up on the VA's pain program.

He's now seeing a private doctor who's helped the Marine stop taking opioids all together.

“For some reason, pain management became associated with just prescribing narcotics,” said Carmel pain specialist Dr. Dmitri Arbuck, who’s been treating Brooking since 2012. “That should really be stopped. It’s the wrong practice and there are so many other options.”

Brooking admits he still struggles daily with the aftermath of his injuries, but says “I’ve got my life back” after breaking free from his addiction to opioids.

He knows other servicemen are not as lucky. Brooking recently lost a close friend – another fellow Marine – who overdosed on pain medication prescribed by a VA hospital.

“I don’t know why we’re still doing this, why this is still happening,” he said. “More veterans are dying here at home by these narcotics than are dying overseas, and that's not right.”

Since WTHR began this investigation, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced significant changes to its pain management policy. Friday night at 11:00, 13 Investigates will show what's now happening to help veterans end their addiction to narcotics – and whether it’s working.
What do you think about this story?
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Short session, long strides

This year was filled with drama, but the outcomes were many-especially in the area of Mental Health and Addiction. Once the Session really got started, it was an exhausting race to the finish and Mental Health and Addiction policy came out victorious! It is not an exaggeration to say that we successfully passed legislation that we--and our mental health and addiction partners--have advocated for over a decade. This was truly an amazingly successful Session for MHAI!

Forensic Treatment
Possibly the most significant legislative victory was in the area of Forensic Treatment for use in diversion and reentry as opposed to incarceration, a long standing MHAI priority. This became an integral part of a complicated web of bills that connected to move Indiana forward toward treatment. Driven by the push for sentencing reform in HEA 1006, the legislature passed SEA 235 and HEA 1268. These bills amend current law to require the use of evidence-based services, programs, and practices to reduce the risk for recidivism. The bills also, for the first time, require the consultation and coordination in planning for forensic treatment services between DOC, DMHA, and the Judicial Conference. The bills define evidence-based services in such a way as to reflect national best practices and they create a Forensic Treatment Account within DMHA. Further, they allow individuals to maintain their TANF and SNAP benefits when participating in these programs. Amazingly, HEA 1006 caps certain felons who would otherwise go to DOC and requires that the savings to DOC be used for these treatment programs, up to $11M. SEA 235 also calls for a pilot project in Marion County utilizing evidence-based practices. Appreciation for making such a significant change in Indiana law and policy goes to too many individuals to mention, but we must recognize the hard work the of legislative leadership who made this happen: Senator Mike Young, Representative Greg Steuerwald, Senator Greg Taylor, and Representative Matt Pierce.

Workforce Development
The Mental Health and Addiction field of professionals is aging while the need for mental health and addiction services grows. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act covers mental health and addiction as an essential benefit with parity, as it should, but that places even more pressure on access to the field. HEA 1360 creates a Mental Health and Addiction Services Development Programs Board to develop a loan forgiveness and training program for mental health and addiction professionals who remain in Indiana. This bill came from the Mental Health and Addiction Commission and the Attorney General's Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse. Many thanks goes to legislative sponsors Representative Charlie Brown and Senator Pat Miller as well as Attorney General Greg Zeoller for passage of HEA 1360, a MHAI priority.

Psychiatric Crisis Intervention
Media reports reflect almost daily the need for psychiatric crisis intervention services, yet Indiana does not have a comprehensive service system that bridges public and private providers as well as our silos of service systems. All too often, it is unclear where an individual in crisis should be taken for assistance, who provides the service, and what services should be made available. Further, there is a lack of coordination and integration of ongoing services once the individual is out of crisis. There are other states that are ahead of Indiana is this regard and SEA 248 would require FSSA to assess what is currently available in Indiana, what is needed, and make recommendations as to how to create a coordinated and integrated system. This bill is a MHAI priority as it begins to address a tremendous need in Indiana. Many thanks go out to its author Senator Mike Crider andHouse sponsor Ed Clere.

Social Host
It has always been illegal to provide alcohol to minors, and now thanks to a bill passed by the General Assembly, it is also illegal to provide a place for them to drink it. SB 28, authored by Senator Pete Miller, which passed the senate, was amended into SEA 236, which was a recodification of the alcohol code. We would like to thank Senators Peter Miller, Mike Young, and Lonnie Randolph as well as Representatives Greg Steuerwald, Matt Pierce and Jud McMillin, for their work on the bill. This law, which goes into effect on July 1, will make it a Class B misdemeanor to provide a place for minors to drink (including hotels). Social host laws are an effective tool for law enforcement and it will send a strong message to the community that facilitating or condoning underage drinking is illegal and not acceptable.

Opioid Treatment
Another MHAI priority coming from both the Mental Health Commission and the Attorney General's Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse is HEA 1218. Among other things, this bill would require DMHA to establish additional standards and protocols for opioid treatment programs and that the programs follow the protocols. Additionally, recommendations will be made regarding the use of the most appropriate medications for treatment. Thanks here go to Representative Steve Davisson and Senator Pat Miller.

Marriage Amendment
Opposition to HJR 3 was also a MHAI priority due to the impact such could have on the mental well being of those affected. As has been well documented in the press, the Resolution was amended to delete the "second sentence". Many observers are of the view that this settles the issue from a legislative standpoint.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
NAS is another priority of the Attorney General's Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force. SEA 408 will require data collection and reporting for the purpose of creating effective models for NAS. This issue and its remedy are expected to loom large in the next session. Many thanks to Senator Vaneta Becker for her strong leadership.

HEA 1258 requires the establishment of a pilot program to provide telehealth services to patients in Indiana and report the outcomes to the Indiana General Assembly. Of course this bill is just the beginning in Telehealth. Thanks go to Representative Robin Shackleford for her leadership moving the issue forward.

Study Commissions
Interestingly, one of the major issues that was somewhat unexpected was brought by leadership regarding study commissions. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of Study Commissions meeting during the summer to deal with complicated issues that cannot be resolved during the legislative session. Of course, the Mental Health and Addiction Commission has served this purpose well and was originally the legislative creation of MHAI. Still, these commissions have put great stress on legislative staff resources and SEA 80 was introduced to address that. The bill essentially eliminates the "specialty" commissions and creates summer committees that reflect the Session standing committees. At the request of MHAI, this bill was amended such that the name of the summer health committee was renamed "Health, Behavioral Health, and Human Services. In addition, we were able to amend the bill to permit the chair to create subcommittees if needed, such that a Behavioral Health subcommittee would be an option. Many thanks to the Speaker's office for working with MHAI to preserve a legislative focus on mental health and addiction.

Final Thoughts
Clearly, the 2014 Legislative Session will be considered hugely successful for Mental Health America of Indiana and its partner organizations. This is a credit to the Board, staff, affiliates and members who work so diligently every day to position the organization in such a way that we can respond to whatever opportunity that may arise. MHAI is truly an organization of professionals and volunteers who have shown that by combining our commitment and resources we can truly make a difference for those most deserving. Thank you for your continued support of MHAI!
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New Blog Schedule

The MHAI blog will now be posted every Friday, instead of Mondays and Fridays.  Be sure to check weekly for more inspiring stories, the latest news on research and treatment, and other stuff you can use!  Thanks for reading!

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Hope Floats

Hope Floats

I started my day in the principal's office, sitting uncomfortably in the seat, fidgeting a little.  That happens when I'm nervous.  And it's been a really long time since I  was called to the principal's fact, I think that only happened once sometime in elementary school and I don't even remember why.  But, there I was.  Someone was having some problems in school, and this time, it wasn't me.

In the past few weeks there have been countless hours spent on homework, loss of free time, and lots of tears...and I'm just talking about me!  Unbelievably, it's the end of the first 9 weeks of school  and we have one child who can't ever seem to find his assignments, let alone turn them in on time, and doesn't really see the urgency even though some grades are teetering on the brink of failing.  Our other child rushes through things to get to the next, and even though he gets great grades on homework, he sped through the required state tests on reading and math and got very low scores ("outside the norm") so we had to have an "academic intervention".  I should say both of our children have been identified as high ability and yet we have never had  so many teachers meetings or communications with teachers than we have had this year.  What did we do wrong?  Why are they having so many problems this year?  Is it the school? Our children? Us?  Sitting there in that hour long meeting, I felt like I was the one who had failed.

Don't get me wrong, the principal and teacher were very helpful and supportive and we have a good plan to proceed, but I still felt like I was a "bad parent" who didn't know how to motivate or help my own child, even though I know that isn't really true.  What we know in our head and what we feel in our hearts are sometimes not the same, at least for me.  I was disappointed in myself for not taking steps to address issues sooner and frustrated that what we had already tried didn't seem to work, and I was certainly disappointed and frustrated with my son.

So, how do we deal with frustrations and disappointments in our life without feeling like a failure or that we are being "sent to the principal's office"?  What can we do when others don't meet our expectations?  Here are some tips we can all try:

1.  Live With It - it's ok to feel disappointed or frustrated (or whatever we are feeling) for a bit.  Too often we make ourselves (and expect others to) just "get over it and move on", when we really just need time to feel the way we are feeling so that when we are ready, we can move past it.  I have some darn valid reasons to feel frustrated and disappointed with my child, and trying to not feel that way isn't going to help.  Most mental health professionals say that after an hour or two of allowing ourselves to live with our feelings, we will usually start to feel better or at least aren't so angry anymore.

2. Get Some Perspective - I have a hard time with this one sometimes, I admit.  But when I thought about it for a little while, I realized that what is going on with my child really isn't that bad.  Certainly there are other families whose children are going through much more difficult things, academically or otherwise.  My children are healthy, well provided for, and have the ability to go to school and learn...this is just a little bump on the road to knowledge, not the end of the world.  And thankfully we have tools and resources to help make the road a little more smooth along the way.

3.  Take Action - can something about the situation be changed to make it better?  If so, get a plan together.  If not, let it go.

4. Have Some Hope - I like the word "hope".  It sounds positive when you say it and it even looks happy with its' round letters (and the word "hop" is in there which has nothing to do with anything but how can you not have hope if you can hop? Just think of the Easter Bunny or kangaroos...).  You might have just had the worse disappointment of your life and it's weighing you down - maybe someone you love really disappointed you or you didnt get the promotion at work that you just knew was coming your way.  We can't change what happened in the past. All we can do is believe that tomorrow is another day and, when we have had time to put things in proper  perspective, we can have hope that things will get better.  And I don't mean "pollyanna-pie-in-the-sky" hope...I mean "real, feel it in the gut, do what I can to change things" hope.  When we let ourselves feel, take time to get some perspective and see things differently, and take action, hope really does float to the top.   And I'm hopeful that I'm really not the worse parent in the world and that sometimes I do something right, like going to the principal's office. I'm hopeful that the new academic plan will get my son back on track and that he will continue to love school and learning.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope".  Let hope float.

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Six Things that Help Me Care for My Vet with PSTD


By Andrea Carlile,

Couple sitting on a bench with their backs to each other.With a high divorce rate, being married to someone with PTSD can be a challenge. It can be monumentally difficult to care for him or her, understand their pain, and deal with the issues that will inevitably come up in the marriage. Some people will wonder why they should even try.

However, what if there was something you could do that changed those negative outcomes? Not all marriages in which one spouse has PTSD fails. What makes the ones that last survive, and even thrive?

There is no blueprint, no one things that works for everyone. I can tell you from experience, however, that there are some steps you can take that will help a marriage to someone with PTSD thrive. I won’t kid you, it’s not easy.  Upon reflecting on what holds my marriage together, I can think of six elements that have contributed to our marital longevity.

1)      Faith. When we are weary, we need to know that we will be sustained throughout trials that arise that are beyond our control. Whatever faith that may be — whether an organized religion or not — can bring you strength.

2)      Consistent communication. PTSD is an ongoing disorder with many complexities. When a couple can communicate effectively, they can minimalize miscommunication, which often leads to bigger problems. Good communication also fosters a closeness that helps you walk the path together. Couples counseling can facilitate effective communication and teach you communication skills, regardless of your communication style.

3)      Common interests. An excellent outlet for stress is to take on a new hobby or interest together. Some people try fishingwriting, sports, woodworking, collecting, models, scuba diving, or just playing games together.

4)      Compassion and understanding. Your veteran may have changed because of the complexity of the PTSD. He or she may struggle with routine tasks, show signs of paranoia, or be hypervigilant. While no one should tolerate abuse or mistreatment, compassion and understanding can go a long way in working through the really difficult days. You may find some help in theseshort videos about coping with PTSD.

5)      Find strength in a peer group. Speaking with others who face the same battles can help you understand and forgive, and increase compassion. Finding out what you can from books and the Internet about PTSD is great, but there is no substitute for empathizing with someone who is or has been in a similar situation.

6)      Take time for yourself. It is more difficult to care for your vet if you are weary, depressed, or experiencing secondary trauma. Counseling, rest, and sharing in a non-judgemental environment can really assist in making you stronger and better equipped for caring for your vet. There are many organizations that care for families with a member who has PTSD. The local vet center can offer counseling and support groups.

Caring for a vet with PTSD is no easy task but perhaps, utilizing some of these methods will help. My husband and I recently reevaluated our marriage. His nightmares increased and as did his paranoia and hypervigilance. We were both scared. However, we reached for these tools. It helped immensely, and we are back on track. Sure, there will be setbacks, but knowing we have tools to help care for each other and our marriage brings confidence that we will not fail. Hopefully, this can spread and the statistics and lives facing PTSD will be dramatically changed.

Andrea Carlile is the spouse of a 12-year military veteran, received her Master’s from Indiana Wesleyan University, speaks to groups about PTSD, and is pursuing a career in Family and Marital Therapy.  The War That Came Homeis her first novel, and she hopes to publish more books in the near future.


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Seven Myths About Stress- original post by Mike Ni


zeus-smStress was only named as a factor in our lives only in the 1930′s! What did we do before then?

Certainly, human beings have been experiencing stress for eons, but it seems to be getting worse as we become more entangled locally and interconnected globally. The current economic situation is only the latest major cause for stress in many people’s lives.

As much as we all live with stress, many of us do not understand the basics about stress and its role in our lives. This ignorance can lead to very real negative consequences: Stress can bring on and exacerbate a host of physical illnesses — from heart disease to Alzheimer’s disease. And stress can also trigger or make many mental illnesses more severe. Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders are among the most susceptible to stressors.

This post examines 7 common myths about stress, with explanations for why they are not true, under these headings:

  • Myth 1: Stress is the same for everybody
  • Myth 2: Stress is always bad for you
  • Myth 3: Stress is everywhere, so you can’t do anything about it
  • Myth 4: The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones
  • Myth 5: No symptoms, no stress
  • Myth 6: Only major symptoms of stress require attention
  • Myth 7: Stress always comes from the outside

[Read the entire article...]

Stress and Its Impact on Your Life


Stress seems to be just another component of the modern life.

It is so common that it is treated as a joke by standup comedians, in tv sitcoms and in the print media. Here’s one for you, brought to you by one of the prominent stress reduction gurus:

  • Picture yourself near a stream.
  • Birds are softly chirping in the crisp, cool, mountain air.
  • No one knows your secret place.
  • You are in total seclusion from that hectic place called “the world”.
  • The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
  • The water is clear.
  • You can easily make out the face of the person you’re holding under the water…

Can you relate to this joke? It’s funny because you can picture being at the breaking point, with the person causing so much stress leaving the picture permanently.

But stress is no laughing matter. It can ruin your physical and mental health. It can ruin your relationships and make your life a living hell. Following are lists of signs of stress to watch out for, along with information on how stress can affect your body and mind.

[Read the entire article...]


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What's the Answer?

If you've watched the news at all in the past few days you know that there has been a rise in violence in Indianapolis -  gang violence leading to shootings and arson.  It seems like the more we try to get a handle on it, the worse it gets.  Law enforcement has stepped up patrols, and  there are citizen volunteer groups keeping a watch out for potential violent situations downtown.  Faith communities have also gotten involved in keeping watch in their neighborhoods side by side with residents.  Not only does this violence have an impact on our reputation as a "safe and friendly city", but also effects our communities...and gang members.   A new study shows that people involved in gangs are more likely to suffer from mental illness.

In an article published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers showed a link between gang violence and mental illness.  This study looked at three separate groups of men in the U.K:  violent, non-violent, and gang members.  Gang members and persons who reported being violent were more likely to have a mental illness and were receiving mental health services at some point.  More than half of the gang members had an anxiety disorder and 1 in 3 had tried to commit suicide.  Researchers believe that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most common mental illness among the men studied because of their  constant exposure to violence.

So, what's the answer to this rash of violence?  More law enforcement?  A bigger law enforcement presence may have a positive impact and so might volunteer patrols and neighbors getting involved in keeping their communities safe.  But maybe what is really needed is more identification and treatment for these women and men who commit violent acts.  Some of these men and women have likely had some interaction with the correctional system, but unless they are in a federal prison for more than a year they probably don't  get comprehensive mental health care.  So, how do we reach them?

Some states have started offering mental health services through other gang related programs like Homeboy Industries in California.  This program provides employment for gang members seeking to leave their violent lives,  identifies the mental health needs of gang members and offers services through community organizations and on site, where they live.  How can we reach out to gang members and other violent men and women to encourage them to seek help?  I don't know.  But Im certain that with the increased efforts of law enforcement, faith communities, and the rest of us, we can find a way to help promote mental wellness, even in the violence.



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Sticks and Stones - written by Lisa Hutcheson, Vice President of Policy and Programs, MHAIs

Crazy.  Nuts.  Looney.  Bonkers.  Insane. Psycho.  We have all used these words, and most of us don't say them to be hurtful or demeaning, only  to describe an unbelievable situation we might find ourselves in, or a person who has acted in some way we find unthinkable.  After all, what other words can we use when these seem so perfect for how we feel?

Let's take a brief lesson in etymology.  The word "crazy" is from the  word "acraze" which was first recorded as early as the 16 century meaning to "dash into pieces or crackle".  This term eventually became "crazy" which has long been used to describe a person with mental illness.  And "insane" is derived from the Latin word "sanus" which means "health", thus "insane" meaning unhealthy.  In most  of the derivations, these words refer to a mental condition.

Having worked at Mental Health America of Indiana for  10 years, I've become much more sensitive to the words used to characterize persons with  mental illness.  I try to teach my boys to find other words to use to describe situations or people, and though I fail at times, I try to do so myself.  Words such as these may not be thought of as terrible anymore and most of us don't even think about using them, but have we ever stopped to consider that we may be perpetuating the stigma of mental illness?

After all, our commute, the weather, and our schedules obviously don't have a mental illness. They can be  overwhelming, stressful, or chaotic for sure.  And, unless you're a mental health professional working with a person, you can't know if they have a mental illness.  That person you call “crazy”  may just be having a bad day, be angry  or is just being a jerk.

There are many people who are impacted by mental illness.  In Indiana, an estimated 1 out of 4 people live with  mental illness  or have a family member with mental illness.  Many are faced with immense challenges on their road to recovery - finding the right diagnosis and medications,  paying for their medication, effectively facing work, social and family challenges,  and overcoming stigma.  The path to mental wellness is difficult enough so let’s try to make it a “kinder and gentler” journey for everyone.

I challenge all of us, to stop and think about how the words we say could make someone else feel.  We are all smart.  We can expand our vocabulary and reach for a different word.    Not using these words all of the time might seem like a small change, but it could make a big difference to someone.

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