29 July 2003
Tonight, hundreds of thousands of people with serious mental illnesses are fighting for their lives across America. Many are NAMI members. Tens of thousands are imprisoned, homeless, strapped to gurneys in emergency rooms, and at grave risk of imminent harm. These conditions are deplorable and our energies are entirely dedicated to their correction. So, I hope you will understand that I have only a small amount of time to respond to your request (“Fast For Freedom Letter to Dr. Birkel”).
I personally believe your proposed actions are ill considered. I believe the course of action you describe will accomplish nothing of value for people with serious mental illnesses either now or in the future. I speak only for NAMI and myself and cannot represent the views of Dr. Scully or Dr. Carmona, however, I offer you this counter- challenge: work with us to achieve better conditions for people with mental illnesses and better access to treatments and supports. If you wish to fast; fast so that people living with mental illnesses who are homeless, destitute, without hope, and in need of help receive better care. I will personally fast with you for that purpose. Remember that neither Ghandi nor Chavez ever fasted solely for ideological purposes, but only in search of justice for the oppressed.
NAMI National Executive Director
Colonial Place Three
2107 Wilson Blvd. Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22201-3042