In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, I took a look at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, an organization dedicated to nami-logo-bluebuilding better lives for those who have been affected by mental illness and their loved ones.

Established in 1979, NAMI has been working hard to help the millions of people who have been affected by mental illness. One way of accomplishing this is Family to Family — one of the many programs offered for families who don’t know how to handle a loved one’s mental illness. Family to Family consists of twelve sessions that are each two-and-a-half hours long — free of charge. These sessions are jam-packed with up-to-date information on mental illnesses, and they are led by trained family members who have shared similar experiences to those they’re helping.

Another really cool NAMI program is In Our Own Voice, which is dedicated to letting those with mental illnesses know that they are not alone and that they can accomplish recovery and be able to do the things that they used to. In this video about the program, the people say that In Our Own Voice gave them the most hope. It gives a humanized viewpoint of what people with mental illnesses are really like, gives concrete examples of what recovery is like, and offers a chance to be led by two trained presenters who happen to be living through mental illness recovery themselves. These presenters lead for an hour or so, telling their stories and letting those attending know that it is all right to be in recovery.

NAMI Basics is yet another of the many programs available, geared towards helping parents who have kids with a mental illness. It’s a great first step to those who really don’t know what to do in their situation. NAMI Basics is free of charge to the public, meeting for six sessions that are each two-and-a-half hours long. These sessions are taught by a team of parents who have lived through it themselves, teaching the skills that parents need to live as normal a life as possible and helping them make the best decisions for raising their child. What makes this class different from most is that it is focused on the caregivers and how the mental illness of the child impacts their lives. They do not and will not diagnosis the children of the caregivers, but they instead expose them to a range of mental illnesses. They hope to intervene early enough so that the potential of the child is not overlooked.


For those who don’t have a loved one or someone they know with a mental illness, there are still ways to get involved. NAMI has a secure, direct, online donation page, and NAMI Walks is a way to give back as well. For the walk, you register online or in paper form, raise money for your team, and then walk to show your support. If you can’t make the walk, you can still raise money and be a virtual walker. Find a walk near you.



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