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The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA)

Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact:

Published: 2014-12-29 : (Rev. 2018-01-25)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA) is a self-help peer support six-step program run both by and for people with schizophrenia or a related form of illness.

Main Digest

January of 2008 found a steering committee of consumers, family members and providers in America forming an organization dedicated to improving the lives of people who experience schizophrenia and related disorders. The steering committee, on February 28th of 2008, named the new organization, 'Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA). By March of the same year, the SARDAA Board of Directors was formed and a part-time consultant was retained in order to build the organization.

A psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental illness characterized by impairments in the perception or expression of reality, most commonly manifesting as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions or disorganized speech and thinking in the context of significant social or occupational dysfunction.

Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA) was founded by Joann Verbanic in the year 1985 and is a self-help/peer support six-step program run both by and for people with schizophrenia or a related form of illness. Since 1985, thousands of people have received support from more than 150 groups that meet in 31 states, as well as in Brazil, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Russia, France, India, Venezuela and Germany. SARDAA adopted SA as its signature program because there was no nationally-supported parent organization to provide people with support, training, materials and outreach.

Today, SARDAA continues to grow and develop as daily contacts for information about schizophrenia-related disorders from consumers, family members, professionals and additional interested people receive answers from the organization. Speaking opportunities have amazed people as they find their lack of understanding of what schizophrenia-related illnesses are and express gratitude for demystifying and enlightening them. Personal contact has gained momentum to eliminate discrimination and stigma.

SA Group Conference calls and Friends Support Conference Calls, held on a weekly basis, have increased in participation from 2 people to 16 people in each call, to include some International participants. Connection with others who are affected by schizophrenia-related disorders has supported people to re-engage with their health care providers. SARDAA engages in social networking and provides a monthly eNewsletter and Blog which disseminates up-to-date articles and research. Hundreds of people receive the organization's monthly eNewsletter. The organization has developed relationships with a number of stakeholders, to include:

May of 2012 found SARDAA holding the organization's first symposium/workshop in the city of Detroit. The organization trained more than 30 people to lead SA groups around America.

The Founders of SARDAA, Mr. and Mrs. Russel Stalters, hosted the organization's first National Conference in the city of Houston titled, "Minds on the Edge: A Call for Hope and Recovery," in September of 2012. The workshop that accompanied the conference taught people how to start and maintain a Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA) support group. As a result of the conference, two new SA groups were founded in Houston. The conference provided family members, friends and professionals with knowledge to aid a person's recovery and analyzed the challenges professionals face, policymakers, as well as the criminal justice system such as it is. The keynote speakers at the event were Dr. Penelope Frese, Dr. Thomas Powell and Dr. Frederick Frese.

Dr. Penelope Frese relied on her experiences as a mother and wife to people with forms of mental illnesses to provide suggestions for recovery. The, "Minds on the Edge," video and panel, which were moderated by Richard Kilberg and featured Dr. Frederick Frese and others, also discussed how families can help those they love. The conference gave families the tools they need to negotiate public health resources and the criminal justice system.

Dr. Catherine Cerulli explained to participants how the criminal justice system addresses mental illness and gave family members suggestions for navigating it. Susan Raffle spoke on NAMI's, 'Family 2 Family,' program that teaches family members how to prepare for a psychiatric emergency, while Sgt. Patrick Plourde explained how the Houston Police Crisis Intervention Team program trains police officers to de-escalate such crisis. Dr. Steven Lamberti showed how early intervention may prevent a relapse in schizophrenia. Susan Sheena described the support family members and friends receive from SARDAA. The SA workshop featured presentations by Joanne Verbanic, Jim Cronin, Dr. Thomas Powell and Dr. Tamara Navarro.

After the conference, the organization's, 'Jazz On My Mind,' benefit dinner, auction and concert was enjoyed by a number of influential members of the community, as well as guests from around America. Entertainment included a soulful saxophone recital by Tom Braxton. Funding raised from the live auction benefited education, programs and resources for people with forms of mental illnesses. The organization was honored and proud to nominate Dr. Frederick Frese for the, 'Lilly Reintegration Award for Advocacy.' April of 2013 found the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare,' recognizing Dr. Frese with one of the most prestigious awards in behavioral healthcare. As a part of Dr. Frese's award, he received a grant to donate to a nonprofit of his choosing; he selected SARDAA.

Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA)

'Schizophrenia Anonymous (SA),' is a self-help group for people with schizophrenia or a schizophrenia-related form of mental illness. SA was founded in Detroit in July of 1985. Since that time, thousands of people have participated in SA meetings. There are currently more than 150 groups meeting in 31 states, as well as Brazil, Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, Venezuela and India. Schizophrenia Anonymous (SA) is both organized and managed by people who experience schizophrenia or a related disorder. The self-help groups are administered in partnership with SARDAA; the SA meeting statement of purpose is to:

Assisting Lance

Robbie remembers his eldest brother Lance as being average, athletic and, 'cool.' Robbie always saw his brother surrounded by friends. Lance was Robbie's idol; he was very popular and the star of the basketball team. Lance also became the reason for an emergency call.

Robbie says that Lance treated him well and that at first his family did not realize that Lance had a major brain disorder that would later lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Robbie; however, could tell that Lance was entering his own space. Robbie's lasting image of Lance, upon seeing him shipped from rehabilitation facility to rehabilitation facility, is of Lance in a hospital walking around and talking to himself as if no one else in the world existed. Lance's parent said, "My son, Lance, is very happy in his new group home. I could not have survived these last three months of crisis without my friends from Family and Friends Support (FFS). I appreciate those who choose not to speak, but just listen. I feel your presence and am so grateful."

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