I thought I’d start off discussing my training this weekend by discussing NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to Americans affected by mental illness. Begun in 1979, NAMI has become the one of the nation’s leading voices on matters pertaining to mental health.
NAMI’s mission is four-fold–education, advocacy, listening, and leading. .NAMI’s education programs are available throughout the country to ensure families, individuals, and educators get support and information about mental illness. NAMI works to shape national policy for people with mental illness and their families and provides volunteer leaders with the tools, resources and skills necessary to advocate for mental health in all states. The toll-free NAMI HelpLine allows it to respond personally to hundreds of thousands of requests each year, providing free referral, information and support–often a lifeline to many. NAMI’s awareness events and activities, including Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), NAMIWalks and other efforts, combat stigma and encourage understanding, and NAMI works with the media constantly to make sure America understands how important mental health is.
NAMI advocates for all who are affected by mental illness, both the individuals and the people in their lives. Their advocacy efforts have led to many victories including securing better funding for the National Institute of Mental Health, protecting access to medications and other treatments in Medicare and Medicaid, and most recently, attaining mental health parity to ensure that mental illness is treated equally to physical illness in most insurance plans
Across the country, trained NAMI volunteers bring programs to a variety of community settings, from churches to schools to NAMI Affiliates. These programs and support groups provide free education, skills training and support. One of these is NAMI In Our Own Voice, a presentation for the public to promote awareness of mental illness and the possibility of recovery. This program is also available in Spanish, En Nuestra Propia Voz de NAMI. This program is the one I trained for this past weekend. It consists of a multimedia presentation of what it is like to live with a mental illness. Each In Our Own Voice presentation features two speakers, people who suffer from a mental illness, and allows them to speak their experience with mental illness and how it changed their lives. I learned how to be a presenter and how to speak to different audiences on all aspects of mental health.
Next time I’ll talk about the training in detail–be sure to tune in!