NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots advocacy group for mental illness and I am a member of the Gwinnett branch. This group is dedicated to breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness by educating all the people in a community – those with mental illness, family members, police officers, even President Obama, as representatives from NAMI recently met with him during a summit on mental health. But the reason I am asking you to support NAMI is personal!
If you are reading this, then you probably already know that I have mental illness. The two main ones are schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and an eating disorder, which means that I get stressed out more easily than most and that when I do, the consequences can be quite severe.
In 2007 and 2008, I moved away from my support system in Atlanta to try to obtain a degree in music therapy. I did well in the music therapy program, but unfortunately, I often felt stigmatized by the fact that there were almost no appropriate mental health resources for me in all of central Georgia. I suffered a relapse in my eating disorder and when I came back and tried seeing a new psychiatrist in Milledgeville, I was sexually harassed. After that incident, I knew that I could not stay for much longer in a town that could not meet my needs.
When I came back home in December 2008, I had to find a new mental health support group, but fortunately, I knew that there was a NAMI group nearby and I started attending regularly. The first time I went it was a wonderful, supportive experience. I no longer attend as regularly as I used to, but I am still thankful that they are there and every time I do go, I see that same joy on each newcomer’s face.
Right now, I am currently taking NAMI’s Peer 2 Peer class, which is a free class that is taught by a peer – someone with a mental illness – to a peer. It is a positive experience, providing me with more coping skills and education.
NAMI needs your support in order to continue providing these classes for free. The organization has not only classes for peers, but for family members, and even members of our police force have taken mental health sensitivity training, as provided by NAMI. Obviously, supporting NAMI is not just about supporting me, but about supporting our community, our safety, and our leaders. Perhaps one day there will not be the kind of overwhelming stigma and lack of resources that I have experienced in these past few years. Can you help me achieve these goals?