Posted by Art Filean on Oct 25, 2018
President Shawn Mullen called the meeting to order and asked Susan Sharnberg to join him at the podium and offer a few “words of inspiration” and also lead those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Rotary Four Way Test.  Brook Smith introduced visiting Rotarians and guests.  Shawn then called attention to table flyers highlighting Project Vote Smart and the upcoming Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble musical program.  Finally, Shawn introduced new member Jay Sehgal using Shawn’s innovative five question process of getting to the heart of new members………………one of those things where you have to be there to get the full impact of the process.
Denise Essman introduced keynote speaker Teresa Bomhoff, a community volunteer with broad experience in many areas but predominately in the area of mental health where she has served as past president and board member of NAMI (“National Alliance on Mental Illness”) of Greater Des Moines.  Her relationship with that organization spans over 15 years and she currently volunteers her time educating anyone who will listen about the challenges and opportunities in the mental health area on a national, state and local basis.  Much of her experience stems from being the parent of two adults with schizophrenia.
We learned the prevalence of mental illness is 1 in 5 (i.e. 20% of the population), whether talking about children or adults.  Narrowing the focus to only people with a severe mental illness brings the number down to 4.2%..............translating this to Iowa results in a count of 132,000 people.  In Iowa we have fewer than 300 trained mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists and other professionals), making Iowa 47th in the nation in psychiatrists, 46th in psychologists and 45th in overall mental health professionals.  State facilities for mental health treatment have become fewer and smaller………….in 1955 Iowa had four state mental health facilities with 5300 beds, this year Iowa is down to two facilities with 96 beds ranking us 50th in the nation in terms of mental health beds.  Comparing that to prisons, Iowa now has nine prisons, over 8300 inmates and another 30,000 people in community correction facilities.
Mental health professionals believe half of all lifetime mental health illnesses begin by age 14 and three-fourths by age 25.  Half of students with mental health conditions drop out of school and 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health condition.
NAMI of Greater Des Moines’s mission includes Education, Support and Advocacy and the organization works on mental health issues at several levels:
Local……..researching approaches and programs aimed at finding how the mental health needs of students can be improved.
State……..advocating for adequate reimbursements and funding for treatment, building a mental health workforce, building a children’s mental health system and working to correct what is considered to be a dysfunctional privatized Medicaid system.  In a national rating on mental health parity statutes Iowa received an F.
Federal…..fighting to keep insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment and coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Each NAMI organization operates as a 501(c)(3) charity and is responsible for raising its own funds.  Donations are needed to fund operations and the broad variety of educational and support functions provided to those in need.  NAMI organizations are active in outreach in many ways and look for opportunities to advance their message.  Help is available for those who need it.  Information is available on the NAMI local website ( or by calling 515 277-0672.
Mental health professionals and support organizations preach and support the following:
  • Mental illness is NOT a defect in someone’s personality, or a personality flaw or a sign of weakness.
  • It is NOT a sign of laziness, or a lack of willpower or a sign of poor moral character.
  • It is NOT a sign of lack of faith nor that the person is a failure.
  • People with mental illness are ill, medically ill.
And if you have mental illness always remember:
  • You are not alone.
  • The illness is not your fault.
  • Never give up home.
All in all a very interesting and informative program about challenges that are around us every day……………..remember, on average 1 of every 5 may at some time have some element of mental illness.