We are living in uncertain times, times that challenge the mental health of the healthiest among us. This column serves as a reminder that NAMI, (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) has been working in our community for many years on behalf of folks who struggle with mental health issues, and we are still here!

Our purpose continues to be to advocate, educate and support those who struggle with mental disease. By the way, the statistics tell us that number is one in five Douglas County residents, so we have a lot of work to do!

Although NAMI narrows our focus on those who have been diagnosed with a serious mental disease and their families, we care about all people who are struggling. Please do check out the NAMI Oregon website, for help and information about coping during these difficult times.

Mental illness is undoubtedly the most misunderstood dis-ease on the planet. The brain is an infinitely complex organ, and research onthe brain only really began as recently as the 1980’s.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, this seems the perfect opportunity to let the public know what your neighbors at NAMI have been up to lately.

First, if you are in need of a support group, whether you are a client or a family member, NAMI Douglas County has begun meeting online until social distancing is no longer in effect. If you’d like to be invited to join a virtual meeting, or if you just need to talk to somebody one on one, you may call 541-430-1990 or 541-673-3045.

The most visible and significant project undertaken by NAMI Douglas County is the Chadwick Clubhouse, which opened in November of 2018 in downtown Roseburg. The Chadwick Clubhouse is a recovery program for folks diagnosed with a serious mental illness, who have been referred by their medical provider. Chadwick Clubhouse follows the Clubhouse International model, which is a highly successful, evidence-based non-clinical recovery program.

There are few recovery services for folks diagnosed with a serious mental illness, here or anywhere in America. The public money is not there for such programs, so most people who are diagnosed become the shunned or forgotten members of our society.

Unless such a crisis happens in one’s own life, or in the life of a loved one, it is difficult to imagine the great loss experienced. Thus, there seems to be little understanding or sympathy by the general public.

The most these forgotten individuals can hope for, is for their family or close friends to continue to be there for them. This can present difficulties, and is not often the case. Worse case scenarios may include homelessness, and/or criminal behavior.

For most people diagnosed with a serious mental dis-ease, however, the isolation that many of us are experiencing today with COVID-19, has become for them, the sad and continual story of a life. While many in our community today clamor to get back to business as usual, for some that will never be the reality.

That is why the Chadwick Clubhouse is such a remarkable place to have in our community. Begun barely on the dream of many, it thrives. Chadwick Clubhouse opened because of the generosity of a local couple who donated the use of a rental, rent-free for 18 months. That same couple have also donated countless hours and other resources to this worthy project. Although this couple have shouldered the lion’s share, many, many others in this community have donated countless hours as well, and several community partners have contributed to making this dream a brilliant reality.

The Clubhouse model thrives on the principle of “meaningful work” and the members do work, side by side with the staff, in work units, providing the services the Clubhouse offers. Meanwhile, a vibrant community thrives, as the members gain valuable employment and improved, healthy life skills.

During the current social isolation of COVID-19, the Chadwick Clubhouse operates with an altered plan. A healthy lunch is delivered daily to those members who request it. Some members show up for outside gardening activities, tending the vegetable and flower beds, and keeping the grounds in tip-top condition. Members also meet twice per week at the Winchester entrance to the bike path and walk 2.5 miles together, all the while keeping their 6 foot distance from other members, of course.

Chadwick Clubhouse is a place the whole community can be proud of. For more information about the Chadwick Clubhouse, you may call 541-671-2176.

As I stated above, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. That means that both NAMI and Chadwick Clubhouse (now with its own taxID# separate from NAMI Oregon) are conducting our annual fundraisers. Please go to one or both of our websites, and be generous!

Dorothy Moll is a member of the Douglas County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She can be reached at dmoll1922@gmail.com.

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