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Multicultural Mental Health Awareness: Understanding How Various Cultures View Mental Health Issues and the Importance of Cultural Competency.

NAMI-NYS frequently speaks about how the key to truly comprehending mental health issues is through understanding. Society must be aware of, and understand the specific issues that people with mental illness face, as well as the unique challenges experienced by their families and loved ones. Awareness and understanding is especially important as we as a grassroots organization reach out to help people and families from different cultures. New York State is truly a mosaic comprised of a wide range of cultures and ethnic groups. Each culture has its own traditions and beliefs and many cultures view mental health issues in extremely different ways. 

While mental illness has been historically stigmatized within the general population of the United States, in many ethnic cultures mental illness is even more misunderstood and stigmatized due to numerous factors including cultural expectations, religious beliefs and larger problems facing various communities. This is why it is essential to understand how different cultures view mental health issues; it is only through this understanding, that we, as a grassroots movement, can be most effective in extending an empathetic helping hand to all New Yorkers touched by mental illness. 

This is why NAMI-NYS is proud to offer these resources to inform you on Cultural Competence and provide multi-media information in English and Spanish on mental illness in the African American, Hispanic, LGBT, American Indian and Asian American communities.

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Most people with mental illness involved in the justice system are not violent criminals. NAMI works to reduce criminalization of people with mental illness by promoting local programs that divert people from the justice system and into treatment, and by advocating with state and federal policy makers to improve access to treatment and services that can prevent involvement with the justice system. We also work to counteract the often horrific conditions faced by people with mental illnesses in jails and prisons.We are honored to partner with mental health provider agencies, corrections systems, law enforcement, courts and other leaders who understand that people need treatment, not jail.

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Our brave military personal serving overseas in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) have received overwhelming support from citizens throughout the country. While the outpouring of support has been inspiring, we must remember that some of the toughest battles facing military personal and their families take place here on the home front.

Nationally, 20% of veterans of OEF and OIF meet the criteria for depression or PTSD, yet only half of them have received mental health care. Co-occurring disorders has also become a major problem as many veterans who are too proud to seek treatment eventually self-medicate via drugs and alcohol.

Military families face unique challenges and stresses both while their loved ones are deployed and after they return home suffering the physical and psychological effects of war. This is especially difficult for children of military personal. Families of military service members also do not have adequate community support; 94% of military families feel that the non-military communities do not understand or appreciate the sacrifices they make.

Supporting those who have served our country and their families must always be a top priority. NAMI-NYS believes this and is proud to offer, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, these resources for military personal and their families, as well as information for those who want to learn more about how to support our military families.

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