Ending Stigma: NAMI Fights for Mental Illness Awareness
By Noel Daniel
Thousands of people across the nation have mental illness—and those people have found help in the National Alliance for Mental Illness.
NAMI is the number one organization that supports families and individuals who experience mental illness and has over 120 members in Stanislaus County, alone. Support groups are offered in Turlock and Modesto and are staffed by trained professionals. They are completely free for those who need support.
NOW NAMI IS GOING ONE STEP FURTHER—IN FACT, QUITE A FEW STEPS. THE NAMIWALK IS ONE EVENT THAT AIMS TO SQUASH MENTAL ILLNESS STIGMA FOR GOOD.
It will be held at the William Land Park in Sacramento on May 6 at 9 a.m. Funds go to the Stanislaus affiliate along with other counties to help fight the stigma of mental illness. Call Marnye Henry at 209-409-6006 to sign up for the Walk or to donate to teams.
This stigma is the number one reason that sufferers don’t seek treatment for mental illness. Many do not feel that mental illness is a disease and therefore discriminate against those with it. Not only does the NAMIWalk raise awareness, it also raises funds for those integral NAMI programs that our county depends on.
These programs include In Our Own Voice, which is about a journey of recovery; Parents and Teachers as Allies, a program for teachers and parents; and Ending the Silence, an interactive educational program for high school students.
“I speak in High Schools for ‘Ending the Silence,’” said Julie Bernardo, NAMI volunteer. “I also speak at MJC for ‘In Our Own Voice.’ ‘Ending the Silence’ educates about the warning signs of mental illness, suicide prevention, and how to help a friend if they’re struggling. The last 10 minutes is where I tell the story from when I was diagnosed to where I am now to show that you can do everything you want to do.”
Bernardo does a lot of these talks with the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a grassroots group of individuals with various lived experiences of mental illness. They are trained to teach and lead NAMI programs, and all their written material is written by those with training in the field of mental health.
“We also speak about our experience to community churches, clubs, and reach out to Spanish parents, too,” said Lynn Padlo, Director of NAMI Stanislaus. “Another presentation we do is for police and highway patrol officers— it’s a Crisis Intervention Team training program so they will have understanding of the lived experience of mental illness.”
California State University, Stanislaus has a NAMI support group, Connection, for individuals with lived experience. It meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Library, Room 175.
“IT’S BEEN SO HELPFUL FOR STUDENTS TO TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY GO THROUGH, IF THEY’RE TAKING MEDICATION, IF THEY’RE NOT TAKING MEDICATION, HOW THEY DEAL WITH THEIR DEPRESSION,” SAID HENRY, THE SUPPORT GROUP LEADER.”
Another Connection support group in Turlock meets the second and fourth Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Cooper House on 1123 Cooper Ave. next to the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Modesto has one Connection support group which meets the second and fourth Mondays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Lana Lynn Plaza, 500 N. 9th St. Jana Lynn Room. Call Dar for more information on all the Connection support groups at 209-656-8855.
Family support groups meet in Modesto on the second and fourth Mondays from 6:30 to 8 p.m at the Jana Lynn Plaza, Room 8. A daytime group meets on the last Tuesday of each month at the First United Methodist Church, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Fireside Room.
For more information about all of these programs, call the NAMI office at 209-558-4555. To register for NamiWalks, visit www.namiwalks.org/northerncalifornia.