Daniel H. Gillison Jr.
Chief Executive Officer
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
There is an old African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” While it’s an old axiom, it’s the kind of timeless wisdom that forms the bedrock of NAMI’s work — even more today than ever before.
There is power in partnerships that is greater than the sum of its parts, but it’s a power that sometimes goes unseen, like the vast bulk of an iceberg lying beneath the waves. Occasions like CPNP’s 25th anniversary are great opportunities to “surface” these important stories.
When we were given the chance to help celebrate this milestone, we jumped at it. But there was just one problem: The partnership between CPNP and NAMI goes back so long and is so extensive that it would be difficult to capture it all adequately in one article. But let me offer some tangible examples.
I’ll start with a statistic. Our website, NAMI.org, currently attracts about 13 million visits per year. It is a vast resource, with information provided since the earliest days of the web itself, free to the public. Out of our top 25 most popular web pages, eight of them — about one-third — are fact sheets about mental health medications, with information provided by CPNP.
These fact sheets on specific medications and general education topics differ from those on many other websites. They are presented in plain, understandable, patient-centered terms that address some of the most commonly asked questions, such as: “What are generics? What is off-label use? Is weight gain related to treatment?”
But our collaboration doesn’t stop at the internet. CPNP has provided outstanding content and support for our annual NAMICon convention. For example, CPNP’s “Ask the Psychiatric Pharmacist” booth at NAMICon 2019 fielded questions and provided resources to attendees. In 2020, CPNP asked its members to submit proposed sessions to NAMICon (as individual researchers/clinicians, not as representatives of CPNP), which resulted in a fascinating and enlightening session about esketamine as a novel treatment.
CPNP members also comprise an enthusiastic army of compassion, volunteering every year in support of NAMIWalks fundraisers across the nation. It’s especially encouraging to see the interest among CPNP’s next generation, with participants in local NAMI events and programs coming from dozens of pharmacy schools nationwide. Some CPNP student chapters have launched Stigma Free Campaigns, while others have dedicated NAMI liaisons who work closely with NAMI State Offices and Affiliates.
Our partnership has also collaborated on research, such as insights about the relationship between pharmacists and people with mental health conditions. And CPNP recently invited NAMI’s Director of Research, Elizabeth Stafford, MPH, to join its Interprofessional Advisory Council, which will help identify opportunities for and obstacles to the integration of comprehensive medication management delivered by psychiatric pharmacists as part of the treatment team.
The broader public should recognize the role of clinical pharmacists, which is a highly trained and specialized, advanced practice. CPNP members are skilled at treating the whole patient, which is incredibly important for members of our community with serious mental illnesses. They often must manage both psychiatric and physical health conditions and may be faced with frequent changes in their treatment plans. CPNP is always advocating for pharmacists having a seat at the treatment table for people living with mental illness. We at NAMI believe strongly in the full treatment team, because it takes all of us to achieve wellness.
We’ve all heard of “pill-shaming.” But like mental illness itself, taking medication should not be a source of shame or stigma. To the contrary, it is a sign of strength when a person takes an active role in their own mental health by consulting with professionals like practitioners and pharmacists.
About six in 10 Americans take prescription medication for their mental health, a number that offers broad opportunities to educate, inform and advocate — the very heart of our partnership. As the scientific experts, CPNP is the pillar partner for how NAMI members engage with medications and everything that goes with them. In short, CPNP’s team is a conduit between the experts and the people NAMI serves.
And so, on the occasion of your 25th anniversary, we wish you many more years of success and collaboration ahead!
Daniel H. Gillison Jr. is the CEO of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.