Abstract: This paper attempts to examine the origin of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the projects and services supplied to local, state and national communities. NAMI provides informative, educative and training services to individuals that have family members, friends and co-workers that are struggling with mental illness. This organization provides its members multiple benefits, but lacks substantial funding during strained economic times. The benefits of NAMI are very clear, and this paper argues for increased funding for continued success.
Benefits of National Alliance on Mental Illness in Communities
Since its inception in 1979, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has established itself as one of the most formidable grassroots mental health advocacy organizations in the United States (NAMI.org). NAMI conducts multiple studies and specializes in informing the general public through grassroots demonstrations of the impacts, treatments, and processes for coping with individuals that have mental illness. It is crucial that mentally ill individuals receive the care and treatment that are necessary for them to recover from illness and have a chance for proper rehabilitation. Unfortunately, family and friends do not have the expertise or training in handling such situations, so it is important that organizations such as NAMI exist to provide training and education services to these individuals for the betterment of the home and the patients, themselves.
Many individuals struggling with mental illness are living in the homes of family members and friends due to increased costs of treatment or the unavailability of mental illness treatment facilities. According to Norton, Wandersman, and Goldman (1993) at any given time there is an estimated 40% of mentally ill patients currently living at home with family, and it is crticial that educative and supportive services are available for family members and other relatives outside the home (p. 143). Without proper training and education, people without a clear understanding of mental illness will not be able to help treat and possibly rehabilitate their loved ones.
NAMI conducts many different training seminars and must have and maintain in order to properly educate and train friends and family. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness web site, they maintain that a strong “dedication, steadfast commitment and unceasing belief in NAMI’s mission by grassroots advocates have produced profound changes. NAMI’s greatest strength is the dedication of our grassroots leaders and members. We are the families, friends and individuals that serve to strengthen communities across the country” (NAMI.org). The successes of NAMI are very clear, especially given the fact that they have been in existence now for over 30 years. One of the most widely renowned programs offered is the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT). “By focusing on the replication of PACT as a national priority, packaging the practice for implementation, engaging the media, coordinating NAMI state organization efforts, and communicating progress, NAMI has created a grassroots demand for PACT” (“Second Grading”, 2009, p. 48). NAMI and its PACT program hold a special importance to the mental illness communities and must continue to be promoted.
There are many benefits that are provided for each of NAMI’s thousands of members. Their yearly dues are collected to help provide the funding for all of the projects and training seminars provided. NAMI members receive membership in local, state and national NAMI organizations; eligibility to vote in all NAMI elections; subscription to The Advocate, NAMI’s quarterly magazine; discounts on brochures, videos, promotional items and annual convention registration fees; and access to exclusive information and resources available exclusively on the national NAMI webs site (NAMI.org). These benefits help provide the organization’s members with perks and informative resources to help properly provide grassroots efforts locally, state-wide and nationally. Funding can also be a major concern, which is why NAMI actively seeks donations from companies, governing bodies, and private individuals to provide its services. It comes to no surprise that the recession status of our current economy makes it very difficult for the organization to receive the funding it requires.
I believe that the National Alliance for Mental Illness is one of the most crucial medical organizations that are currently working to improve local communities across the country. Many people that are not properly trained feel the burden of family members that are struggling to recover from mental illness. The many programs, such as PACT, that NAMI provides allow for the family and friends of individuals with mental illness to learn how to support, treat, and understand the problems associated with multiple diseases. Without this type of training, many mental patients will not have or will completely lose their familial support system that helps many individuals recover from illness. Without proper funding, I do not believe that NAMI will be able to continue the strides that it has made over the last 30 years, but I hope that it will continue to do so for as long as possible and in any community where its services are needed.