November 2008

The Spada Family, with Bob and James front and center, after receiving the Woodruff Foundation Special Recognition for Extraordinary Service, November 2008

“I have seen firsthand how a biological illness of the brain can stop someone in their tracks and how effective treatment can get him going again.” This is the message that former State Senator Bob Spada shares time and time again. “Why is it,” he ponders, “that our society is so accepting of some brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, yet so fearful of others like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?”

When asked to comment on the issue of stigma, James understandably cringes. “I want to focus on the positive. The more we talk about stigma, the more we perpetuate the societal barrier that keeps people from coming forward. We need more people with mental illness to feel comfortable letting others know that they have one of these disorders, but it is not who they are. What the public needs to know is that people are doing well and that treatment works,” he said. Rather than focus on his illness, James strives for success and wants to be recognized for his victories.

We need more people with mental illness to feel comfortable letting others know that they have one of these disorders, but it is not who they are.

And his victories are many. Even though he has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, James holds a degree in economics, with a concentration in Chinese and a minor in business. He has taught English in China, held an internship with a Chinese pharmaceutical company, excelled in positions in one of the nation’s largest bank, and he has written a book. Today, James has started his own web based business and is working on his MBA. He wants you to know that he is doing well, and that treatment works.

Both father and son stress that the key to success in battling bi-polar disorder, or any chronic illness for that matter, is support, attention and care. Support is involving people in your recovery. Attention is developing an awareness of your disease; managing it and recognizing changes that may indicate a need for adjusting treatment; and Care is the treatment approach that involves medication, adherence and monitoring.

Senator Spada’s work in the General Assembly may have come to a close, but he is far from ready to give up his public campaign to bring awareness and equality to mental health issues. The sponsor of Ohio’s Mental Health Insurance Parity Act dreams of one day holding a mental health march to call attention to the need to end discrimination against those with mental illness. He is determined to have others join him in calling on those with mental health disorders, “to do step forward and let the world know that you are successful and that, oh by the way, you have a chronic condition that hasn’t stopped you yet!”

In the meantime, James will be building his life as the CEO of a web-based business. You can find him at!

The future of funding for Ohio’s community mental health system grows bleaker each day. We are hearing rumors of yet another state budget cut after the holidays. Unfortunately, things do not look better for next fiscal year either. Governor Ted Strickland will introduce his FY ’10 –’11 biennial budget proposal sometime in early February. We are expecting, at a minimum, a 5-10% cut in the Department of Mental Health’s budget. The role of mental health advocates between March and June will be to convince the members of the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate not to approve these cuts. It will be a hard sell, and we will need your help! NAMI Ohio is working with our partners in the behavioral health system to prepare a budget message that makes the case that cuts to mental health have costly implications to other systems, including education, corrections, job and family services, and juvenile justice, just to name a few. Therefore, sparing the Department of Mental Health from cuts will benefit state agencies across the board. In January, NAMI Ohio and our partners will begin to roll out our budget message. Please be on the lookout for electronic budget advocacy alerts from NAMI Ohio that will guide you in helping us to make our case to the General Assembly.

Stigma Busting Challenge:  Drop off some holiday goodies or a board game to a local group home.