May 06, 2001

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) will hold its 22nd annual convention in Washington, D.C., July 11-15, 2001, and is extending a special invitation to the Latino community throughout the Washington metropolitan area and the nation.

The NAMI's convention will be held at the Washington Hilton & Towers Hotel (1919 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C.) and will present the latest information about mental illnesses and treatment for both children and adults. On Saturday, July 14, consumers, family members, and community leaders will be able to attend special workshops in Spanish free of charge.

Entitled "Renovando la Esperanza Atravez de la Rehabilitacion," the Spanish program is being organized by Maria E. Restrepo-Toro, senior training associate at Boston University's Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation in Massachusetts. Part of the program includes a film, "Familias Unidas Saben" presented by Luis Garcia, director of Latino program development for Pacific Clinics, based in Arcadia, California.

During the rest of the convention, seminars and workshops in English will address topics of additional interest to Latinos. They include:

· The Global Impact of Mental Illnesses, featuring Dr. David Brandling-Bennett of the Pan American Health Organization

· International Human Rights Advocacy for People with Mental Disabilities Worldwide," featuring Humberto Martinez of the South Bronx Mental Health Council in New York.

· NAMI's Family-to-Family Education Program in Spanish-speaking communities

· Minorities in Mental Health Systems

On Saturday, July 14, NAMI will honor at its annual banquet Maurice Benard, star of the ABC daytime soap opera, "General Hospital" for his personal courage, leadership and advocacy on behalf of other people with mental illness.

Benard, whose family surname is Morales was born in Martinez, California. His father was born in Nicaragua, his mother in El Salvador. He has struggled for years with bipolar disorder (manic-depression) and was one of the first Hollywood actors and Hispanic celebrities to have the courage to speak out publicly about his illness. For Latino families who struggle with mental illnesses, it is important to know that there is help-and hope-and like Benard, NAMI is fighting for them.

Registration information for the NAMI convention both for the Spanish program (free of charge) and other convention sessions can be obtained from Dana Lebowitz at 703-524-7600 or Additional information also is available on NAMI's Website at

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