Sunday, May 06, 2012

National Alliance on Mental Illness, and a small request of you

Hi Folks,
I have a small request. If you could be so kind as to help with this, I would appreciate it immensely.

NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness has meant a lot in my life. The chapter that I'm part of is called NAMI Pinellas. I have been involved in it for five years. It is a very active chapter of NAMI and it has many excellent programs. The people involved in it are some of the nicest, most anti-stigma, understanding people who I have ever met. They are all family members of people with mental illnesses, or people who have illnesses themselves (ie, consumers), for the most part. They are dedicated volunteers.

Let me tell you about some of the programs NAMI Pinellas puts on and why I am trying to raise a little money for them. Every six months we hold a Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement officers in our county. Most classes have about 40 officers, because that is all there is room for. They get trained for an entire 40-hour week on mental illness, and how to deal with people in crises. This is a national, and even an international program, and CIT has been shown to decrease the number of shootings of people with mental illnesses by the police when they are in crises, and also decrease the number of arrests of people with mental illnesses who belong in hospitals rather than jail. For this reason, I am very proud to be involved with CIT and I attend all the trainings. I am a consumer speaker once a year, and a backup speaker once a year. I tell the police officers my story, and they come up to me afterwards, sometimes, to shake my hand and tell me that I helped them understand mental illness. It is a very empowering experience, which I wouldn't have ever had without NAMI Pinellas. Our CIT program has trained 1,200 officers in our county on mental illness in the past 11 years. CIT overall has trained 10,000+ officers in the state of Florida alone.

Another program NAMI Pinellas has is called Breaking the Silence. This is when we go out to community groups and educate them about mental illness. Mostly this program is geared towards middle school and high school students, but sometimes we talk to other groups. I have spent two days in the past couple years telling my story, and discussing depression, eating disorders, suicide, and other mental illness issues with another NAMI volunteer at a high school for students who have been kicked out of other schools. We've also talked to the staff of a local theater, on a disability training day and I told them my story. NAMI members go to lots of schools and other places to do this program frequently (much more than I myself have done). This is an important program because suicide (notice the title of this blog?) is the second leading cause of death amongst college students and the third amongst high school students. Kids need help, and NAMI Pinellas tries to help them. In the future we're going to be taking our Breaking the Silence program into hospitals and assisted living facilities to train the staff members about mental illness.

NAMI Pinellas also has a Peer to Peer training classes a few times a year. This is a nine-week long course for people like me to attend because we have mental illnesses and want to understand them better. This class is also very empowering and in many of the classes, people open up to a group for the first time about their illness.

NAMI Pinellas has a Consumer Council, and I have been secretary of it for a few years. We are not that active at the moment, but in the past we have made resource packets, printed out thousands of them, and distributed them to local psychiatric hospitals so all of the patients being discharged would know where to go for help. We have also attended conferences, and networked with other advocates around the state. We presented a table every year for the past three years at my former community college (where I graduated from) on the Disabilities Awareness Day, at which we were the only group representing mental illness out of all the booths present. In few weeks, I'll be attending the NAMI Florida statewide Peer Conference and hosting a discussion group on hearing voices.

NAMI Pinellas has a Consumer Connections support group weekly at two different locations and times. This is a support group for anyone with a mental illness. We also have a support group specifically for family members of people who have mental illnesses. We have a twelve-week course called Family to Family which trains family members to understand mental illnesses better, and to know where they can go for help. I have gotten to speak  twice to that class in the past year, and tell my story. The people were so warm, and welcoming, it really made me feel great to do that. It was very empowering.

NAMI Pinellas has a helpline and a consumer helpline for people to call to get information, and support. I helped answer the consumer line for most of last year. There is a very dedicated, older couple who have been answering the main helpline for many years because their daughter has a mental illness. (Did I mention how dedicated the people who volunteer for NAMI Pinellas are?)

NAMI Pinellas holds a walk almost every year, a picnic almost every year, and a banquet where awards are given out every year to raise awareness about mental illness. The Iris Awards go to people like police officers who help prevent someone from committing suicide, and people like me who do advocacy with NAMI. I was very honored to receive this award in 2010. That same year, I was also very honored to receive the Consumer of the Year Award. Both these awards are in my living room for anyone to see them. I am proud of them.

NAMI Pinellas holds a monthly education meeting. We have speakers come, such as representatives from every local mental health treatment agency, and speak to the public about resources that are out there for help or specific topics like medication management or PTSD in veterans.

NAMI Pinellas is going to be starting both a support group and a Peer to Peer class at the community college I used to attend, where there are no mental health services offered for students (something that definitely affected my life many times!), and they have asked me to help jump start these programs. So I am going to get trained to do that, and I am going to be involved with talking to faculty at the school to help get it going. I am very happy about this, because it is a sorely needed program.

All of NAMI's programs are free to anyone who is interested in them. NAMI Pinellas receives no government funds to fund these programs. It relies on donations.

So this year, for the first time since I got involved in NAMI, I'm bowling in the annual fundraiser (a bowlathon). I want to raise money to give back to this wonderful organization and help support its mission of advocating for people with mental illnesses, educating people about mental illnesses, and supporting people with mental illnesses and their families. We also do advocacy where we meet, call or write legislators and my most recent letter to a state senator was published in the last NAMI Pinellas newsletter. The newsletter goes out to all our members.

The Bowlathon is May 19th, and I am trying to raise some funds via people sponsoring me in the Bowlathon. So, if you happen to have a few dollars (even if it's one dollar) to spare, and could send a check or money order to NAMI Pinellas, I would really appreciate it very much and so would all of the consumers and family members who we serve.

This summer I'm also running for a seat on the NAMI Pinellas Board of Directors, and I hope to be able to participate even more!

If you would like to contribute something, please send it payable to NAMI Pinellas County, Inc. which is a 501c3 organization. Your donations will be tax deductible in the United States. The mailing address is The mailing address for NAMI Pinellas County is: NAMI Pinellas, P.O. Box 12773, St. Petersburg, FL 33733-2773.

Please mention, if you send something, that you are sponsoring me, Jennifer R. from the Consumer Council, in the bowlathon. If you want a receipt, please also mention that.

I'm sorry if this sounds like a commercial, but it truly is a beneficial organization for people with mental illnesses, and if you live in the U.S. and you, or anybody you know, has a mental illness, I encourage you to check out your local NAMI affiliate at

Any amount is welcomed, so even a dollar is most appreciated. Thank you very much for your attention here and thank you very much for your support of NAMI Pinellas!

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome that you're so involved and that your NAMI affiliate is so helpful! Unfortunately, the one near where I live has sort of gone downhill, but I am glad that yours is doing so well. Keep up the good work!


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