Carver College of Medicine students receive training from NAMI Iowa

By Francie Williamson, Communications Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

Students in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine now are receiving additional training during their psychiatry clerkships from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The four-hour course is taught by a community mental health professional, a person in recovery from mental illness, and a family member of someone dealing with mental illness.

“The NAMI Provider Training is a one-of-a-kind learning experience where students can experience and appreciate mental health and mental health care through the eyes of patients and their families,” says Peg Nopoulos, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry. “It is a unique process that isn’t available in our current curriculum and we are lucky to have this program available for our students.”

So far, students in the medicine and physician’s assistant (PA) programs have rated the training session positively.

“I really thought the vulnerability and honesty from the facilitators was amazing and something that I had never experienced before,” one student wrote in an evaluation after the session. “It was much more impactful than someone standing up at the front lecturing me from a book.”

What is NAMI? 

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. Although the provider training has been available since 1998, it is only recently that both of Iowa’s medical schools – at Des Moines University and UI – have offered it.

Marty Parrish is one of the NAMI volunteers who conducts the training. He says he talks about his struggles with depression and other issues in order to “break the silence and show that you can still be successful with mental illness.”

“One of the things we’re trying to do is educate providers that they’re going to deal with people with mental health issues,” Parrish says. “It doesn’t matter what specialty they go into. They’re going to see people that might otherwise never seek treatment.”

Rochelle Honey-Arcement, a clinical therapist and NAMI volunteer, says the training also helps confront assumptions and stigmas commonly associated with mental illness.

“Sometimes we assume, oh the family is withdrawing or not being involved and think that means they don’t love the patient,” Honey-Arcement says. “But no, maybe they haven’t had the support they needed or they’re burned out or they’ve been pushed out and not been allowed to be part of the patient’s treatment. So, this training can remind the students of that.”

Emily Morse, DO, director of the medical student psychiatry clerkship, says the NAMI training came about after Nopoulos had a conversation with Peggy Huppert, president of NAMI Iowa.

Morse says before the NAMI training was put into place, medical and PA students had a chance to listen to a one-hour talk over lunch from a person in recovery from mental illness, but “the NAMI training incorporates other valuable perspectives as well.”

Monday, March 21, 2022