Published On: Tue, Jul 23rd, 2019

Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness

By: Robert S Weinroth

With 1 in 5 Floridians experiencing mental health disorders by age 25 the repercussions for the person afflicted and those with whom they interact (family, friends and co-workers to name but a few), are far reaching.

While there are a number of organizations working to offer help to those struggling with mental illness, today I am going to focus on one in particular, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Palm Beach County (NAMI).

NAMI is a non-profit grassroots mental health organization dedicated to providing advocacy, support, education and public awareness with the goal of empowering people with mental illness and their circle of friends and family to build better lives.

NAMI strives to be a leader for improving the quality of life and protecting the rights and interests of those affected by mental illness – working to eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness to achieve the goals of empowerment, social inclusion and recovery.

People are better able to respond to a person’s illness or injury when it visually manifests itself. Mental illness, which is a medical condition, is often deemed something a person should be able to control notwithstanding the resulting disruption of a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and function as a contributing member of society.

Just as diabetes is a medical condition attacking the proper function of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions resulting in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.

Mental illnesses can affect anyone and is not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Most importantly, mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

NAMI has over 1,000 offices, nationwide, and 27 in Florida, offering a full spectrum of services. They are positioned to offer support for finding resources or to develop a crisis contingency plan by reaching their Certified Recovery Peer Specialist.

Palm Beach County has three Mobile Crisis Units, available 24/7, ready to provide emergency intervention, de-escalation, screening and assessment for individuals who are experiencing emotional distress. Family members or close friends can call the Mobile Crisis Unit for help in determining the best course of action.

Where necessary, the Mobile Crisis Unit personnel will be dispatched to an individual’s home to assess the situation. Based upon that initial assessment, they may recommend community treatment or they may arrange to have the individual hospitalized. 

Where a situation has escalated to a crisis, a call to 911 should be made but care should be taken in describing the situation to provide the first responders with the information to react appropriately. Asking if a CIT-trained officer is available to respond. The Crisis Intervention Team member will have completed a weeklong training, developed nationally by NAMI and police, to improve responses to people in crisis. Many local officers have participated in this training.

Mental illness can be an isolating experience for the individuals afflicted and those in their circle of friends and family unwilling to confide in others that a mental illness exists.

NAMI has a full array of nationally developed, evidence based, signature programs, available free of charge. They include:

NAMI Family to Family is a SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) evidence-based best practice 12-session course for family caregivers of individuals with sever mental illnesses, teaching the knowledge and skill that families need to cope more effectively.

NAMI Family Support Group is a support group for family members, caregivers, and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness. Gain insights from the challenges and successes of others facing similar circumstances. Family members facilitate this group.

NAMI Peer to Peer is a recovery education course open to anyone (18+) experiencing a mental health challenge. This is a 10-session educational program for adults with mental illness who are looking to better understand their condition and journey toward recovery. Taught by a trained team of people who’ve been there, the program includes presentations, discussion and interactive exercises. Everything is confidential, and NAMI never recommends a specific medical therapy or treatment approach. Learn more about the NAMI Peer to Peer course HERE.

NAMI Connections is a 90-minute peer-led support group for adults living with mental illness. Participants will gain insight from hearing the challenges and successes of others. The groups are led by NAMI-trained facilitators who have “been there.”

NAMI Ending the Silence helps middle and high schoolers understand mental illness makes a big difference. NAMI  teaches them about the warning signs for themselves and their friends. The course helps raise awareness and change perceptions around mental health conditions. Students get to see the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the 50-minute presentation, a young adult living with mental illness and a family member tell their stories about mental health challenges, including what hurt and what helped. To schedule a presentation at your middle or high school please contact the NAMI PBC office at 561.588.3477. To learn more about NAMI Ending the Silence click here.

NAMI Provider Educstion introduces mental health professionals to the unique perspectives of individuals living with mental illness and their families. You’ll develop enhanced empathy for their daily challenges and recognize the importance of including them in all aspects of the treatment process. This is a 15 hour program of in-service training taught by a team consisting of an adult with mental illness, a family member and a mental health professional. Learn more about NAMI Provider here.

NAMI Smarts for Advocacy is a hands-on advocacy program that helps people living with mental health conditions, their friends and family, transforming their passion and lived experience into skillful grassroots advocacy.

NAMI Home front is a 6-session educational program for families, caregivers and friends of military service members and vets with mental health conditions.

Based on the nationally recognized NAMI Family-to-Family program, NAMI Homefront is designed to address the unique needs of family, caregivers and friends of those who have served or are currently serving our country. The program is taught by trained family members of service members/veterans living with mental health conditions.

Learn more about services for veterans here

NAMI Mentoring Program offers 1–on-1 mentoring with a NAMI Peer Specialist. The program is available for ages 13-adult.

NAMI Young Adult Group is a social/support group for adults (ages 18-35).

NAMI Peer Council provides opportunities to participate in self-directed initiates for mutual aid and socialization.

NAMI on Wednesday (NOW) is a weekly drop-in offering social and recreational opportunities.

General Meetings are held once a month and offer educational talks about issues relevant to mental health.

NAMIWalks is an initiative of NAMI PBC to raise community awareness and help reduce the stigma against those living with mental illness. Join the thousands of concerned citizens in over 85 communities across the nation walking together to raise money and awareness to ensure vital, free NAMI programs and services are available to provide help and hope to those in need. Every journey begins with that first step. This year the walk will be held on November 2nd. To learn more about this year’s walk, go to:

To learn more abut NAMI Palm Beach County, go to or call them at 561.588.3477.

The NAMI HelpLine is available at 800.950.NAMI.

Family Support Groups meet in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Jupiter and Wellington. #StigmaFree

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. Commissioner Weinroth serves as County Vice-Mayor and has been appointed Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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  1. —-Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness

    Will never be accomplished by headlining people who hold that prejudice.

    Harold A Maio

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