Chuck Eldridge

Chuck Eldridge, president of the local NAMI chapter was our guest speaker this past Tuesday. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and is one of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Chuck was here to tell us about the Alliance, but also to tell his life story (‘In Our Own Voice’) with mental illness. As a 30-yr with a large family, Chuck had an important management position with his company. It became apparent to his colleagues at the regional company that something was happening to Chuck and he was no longer the well-liked administrator, BUT to him NOTHING had changed.

Chuck’s condition became so bad that the home office put him on sabbatical to ‘deal with his problems.’ Chuck spent many hours with a psychiatrist with him doing most of the talking. Eventually, the psychiatrist diagnosed Chuck as bipolar, a condition that caused his rapid mood swings at work and at home. Prior to counseling, Chuck had been dealing with his unknown condition for some time through the use of alcohol eventually becoming an addict. So he had two conditions he had to face, if he was going to live his life the way he wanted. The psychiatrist found an Rx the worked well for Chuck to control his mood swings. Through group therapy, Chuck was eventually able to address his alcohol addiction, although it took 15 years to do so. One important message in Chuck’s talk was that mental illness is a brain disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, not something that ‘just happens to people.’

The Wilmington affiliate of NAMI has over 70 members with 12 serving as group leaders to provide programs across the region on mental health. Some of the Wilmington activities include ‘Family to Family’ education program, a weekly peer run support group for adults, and a monthly support group for families whose love one are living with mental illness. A ‘Crisis Intervention Team’ is available with NAMI trained first responders for situations where mental illness or substance abuse is causing a crisis for the individual and/or their family.

To learn more about NAMI Wilmington or become a member follow this link