National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI)
Photo by Sarah Morreim
On July 26, the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) kicked off its 40th anniversary celebration at Aster Cafe. NAMI is a nonprofit offering education, support, and advocacy for children and adults living with mental illness, as well as their families.
Mariah Owens: The stigma around mental illness is changing, but very slowly. We have a lot of work to do, especially in communities of color. For my family, there was stigma and secrecy around my mother’s mental illness. By sharing my own story I try to make other people feel comfortable sharing theirs. The more we talk about it the more we can decrease the stigma and hopefully break down the barriers so people go get care.
Mary Pettiford: We have a son that has schizophrenia. NAMI does a lot to try to erase the stigma. When my son was first diagnosed, he was so happy to have a diagnosis because he’d known that something was wrong. Then the mother of his girlfriend at the time called and said to keep my son away. It was so sad. NAMI hopefully makes people accept those with mental illness part of our society.
Dan Hanson: We have a son who struggles with a severe, chronic form of schizophrenia and we were searching for help.
Sue Hanson: The first NAMI meeting I went to, I felt like somebody had put their arms around me and embraced me. Mental illness can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what your race is, what your belief is, or how much money you’ve got. It happens to one in five people.
Kathleen Westerhaus: I lost a brother to suicide in 2002, and I also live with bipolar disorder. The biggest support that NAMI gave me is to help me get my voice back. It has allowed me to find my identity as a person again and to overcome my mental illness. Mental illnesses are treatable conditions. You can get better and there is hope.