Barbara Statman’s family knew something was wrong. The 18-year-old had been struggling with inner turmoil since the age of 5, but had recently become increasingly unstable. Her family watched with dismay as she experienced stormy personal relationships and had difficulty in school and in the workplace. Desperate to help her daughter, Barbara’s Cupertino-based mother, Navah, called the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
NAMI educated the Statman family about Barbara’s condition, which was eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder.
The illness, also commonly known as manic depression, affects nearly 2.3 million adults nationwide. Individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder go through cycles of mania and depression lasting from a few days to several months, often leaving victims powerless to complete even the most basic tasks.
The illness is a chronic, lifelong condition that can only be managed by the long-term use of medication, often accompanied by regular therapy.
“The early years were very turbulent,” Navah Statman said. “We needed a lot of support.” Through NAMI’s free support groups, the Statmans were able to find the assistance and understanding they needed during a tumultuous time in their daughter’s life.
That journey began in 1991.
Today, 34-year-old Barbara Statman lives independently in Oregon while still struggling with bipolar disorder. Her mother remains active in mental illness advocacy and education, and was recently honored by the Junior League of San Jose for her 15 years of volunteerism with NAMI.
About the mom
Navah Statman was born and raised in Israel, but later moved to New York, where she pursued a masters degree in library science at Columbia University. She moved to California in 1979 when her husband was offered a job in Cupertino, and has been living here ever since, eventually receiving her MBA from Santa Clara University in 1984.
Inspired by the education and support that NAMI had provided for her family in dealing with her daughter’s illness, Statman became increasingly involved in NAMI and within the mental health community. In 1998, she was appointed to Santa Clara County’s Mental Health Board, and, in 2002, was elected president of NAMI’s Santa Clara chapter. She served a two-year term and remains active on the board of directors.
About the organization
NAMI was founded in 1979 and quickly became America’s go-to organization for mental illness advocacy and education. It has more than 1,100 local affiliates. Santa Clara County’s affiliate alone boasts nearly 600 members. The organization is dedicated to the support of individuals and families who suffer the effects of mental illnesses, and is entirely run by volunteers.
Though NAMI itself does not provide health care for individuals in need, it does provide free support groups, as well as a 12-week Family to Family Education Program, which was founded in the late 1990s. The course is both taught by and specifically targeted at families of individuals with severe mental illnesses.
Statman also credits NAMI’s educational programs for assisting in the passage of mental health care reform, such as Proposition 63. Proposition 63 was passed by voters in November of 2004. It allowed a tax to be levied to help fund mental health resources in Santa Clara County.
Statman was honored by the Junior League of San Jose at its 37th Annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon on April 28, one of 150 local volunteers honored, but one of only 16 who were awarded the prestigious Crystal Bowl Award.
“This was really incredible,” said Statman, who has seen friends and colleagues honored by the Junior League in past years. “This was a total surprise for me, so it was really special.”
Statman will continue her work with NAMI and the Mental Health Board, and looks forward to assisting with mental health care reform and education.
NAMI Santa Clara’s main office is in Water Tower Plaza II at 307 Orchard City Drive, Suite 205 in Campbell. The office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a volunteer staff member available by phone during all operating hours. For more information about educational programs, support groups and other services, call NAMI Santa Clara at 408.583-0001, or visit the website at http://www.namisantaclara.org.
This piece originally appeared in The Cupertino Courier.