Weekly Mission Spotlight: NAMI

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

NAMI Wake County

NAMI Wake County was founded in March 1987 under the name “Friends and Families in Alliance for the Mentally Ill” (FFAMI). The original agent was Mary Virginia Welles, whose daughter suffered from mental illness. In November 1989 the name was changed to Wake County Alliance for the Mentally Ill (WC AMI). In 1998, the name was changed from WC AMI to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Wake County to reflect the naming and identity standards of NAMI National. Since conception, the organization’s mission has remained consistent. One notable exception is that people with a diagnosed mental illness, or consumers, who were once excluded from serving in either a membership or governing capacity of NAMI Wake, are now welcomed as full members of the organization and serve on the Board of Directors.

NAMI Wake County provides support, education, and advocacy to individuals, families, and caregivers, living with mental health challenges, to lead better lives. Their goal is to advocate at the county, state and national levels for non-discriminatory access to quality healthcare, housing, education and employment for people with mental illness. They strive to educate the public, about mental illness, work to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, and advocate for increased funding for research into the causes and treatment of mental illness so that one day we might live in a community where mental health is valued and quality resources are accessible to individuals affected by mental health challenges.

Over the past 30 years, membership to the organization has grown as NAMI Wake County continues to advocate for peer-led and lived experience approach to programs and services. Advocacy has included long efforts to keep Dorothea Dix open, supporting funding for group homes, sitting on local committees to ensure the rights of those living with a mental illness are at the forefront, and removing offensive Halloween costumes from local stores. These efforts have led NAMI Wake County to be part of solutions, such as the development of the Crisis Intervention Team in partnership with Alliance and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.

In the early 1970s, small groups of family members, nationwide, began to gather around kitchen tables searching for support and understanding of their mentally ill family member, more often than not, a son. The majority of those meeting together were moms blamed by the medical profession that their parenting skills caused their child’s schizophrenia or other mental health disorder.

In the late 1970s, some of these families gathered together in Madison, WI and decided to form state associations. Within the next few years, the state organizations decided to form a national organization named NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. What started as a small group of families gathered around a kitchen table has blossomed into the nation’s leading voice on mental health. Today, they are an alliance of more than 600 local Affiliates and 48 State Organizations who work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.

Mental illness is plagued by a stigma that prevents people from accessing the treatment and support to lead a life of recovery. NAMI Wake County is committed to diminishing the stigma and improving access to resources so that all those affected by mental illness feel welcome in the community.

Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. During May, NAMI joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. Mental Health has been observed in the U.S. since 1949. Help NAMI honor mental health this month by spreading awareness, or sharing your story or resources. Follow along on our social (@namiwake on all platforms) throughout the month for info and events that honor mental health awareness! Learn more at www.nami.org/MentalHealthMonth »

For 2021’s Mental Health Awareness Month NAMI will continue to amplify the message of “You Are Not Alone.” They will use this time to focus on the healing value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay through NAMI’s blog, personal stories, videos, digital toolkits, social media engagements and national events.

Join the NAMI Walks – Mental health for All virtual event on May 22. To participate visit www.namiswwa.org/events/namiwalks »

Together, we can realize our shared vision of a nation where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives — a nation where no one feels alone in their struggle.