It’s spring in Portland so that means the National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI Walk is fast approaching! The May 19th walk is Oregon NAMI’s main source of fundraising for the year. Overall, the funds support programs across the state, in over 15 different NAMI affiliates in Oregon– including ones in Multnomah, Washington & Clackamas counties. This fundraiser directly helps people in our own community.
I became involved with NAMI through a Family-to-Family class in the Spring of 2016. I, like all the folks who come through the program, learned that mental illness can affect anyone and it touches roughly one in five people- everything from depressive disorders to Schizophrenia. When I took the class, I had no idea where to turn for help or what to expect in the terrifying new world of trying to get help for someone with mental illness. It helped me a lot. In retrospect, I was in as much need of help as my family member was, and this program helped me re-discover hope in our situation. It’s not a magic bullet, but it truly changed my perspective. This organization gave me so many tools to help someone I love, that I feel like I owe NAMI a cosmic debt I can never repay.
After my experience, I became a teacher of the same Family-to-Family class that helped me. I’m teaching my fifth class at the moment and in all honesty, the experience is transformative for me every time. Each class follows a standardized format and is taught over 12 weeks covering everything from brain biology and background on various mental health disorders but also on the social and emotional needs of folks who are going through a very difficult experience.
I see so many people come into class in a state of crisis- they are in a new world of dealing with a loved one’s mental illness and they have no idea how to help or where to turn for guidance. Through the class, skills are learned, emotions are dealt with and people leave the class with newfound hope & tools to help them through the challenges ahead of them. It is life changing for many of the folks who take the class.
Family-to-Family is just one of their programs they offer. They also have classes for families of children with mental illness called NAMI Basics; a class for veterans who are struggling- NAMI Home Front; and classes for people with an illness who are recovering- NAMI Peer-to-Peer. It’s one of the most supportive environments I’ve ever experienced.
Did I mention that all of their classes and all of their support groups are free? As in “there is no charge or requests for money to attend a meeting” free. Classes are 100% free to anyone who needs them. NAMI really is one of the good guys when it comes to support.
The program survives on donations from folks like me who donate time and money, some corporate sponsors and donations from friends, families, and anyone who supports this grass-roots movement to change the public perception of Mental Illness.
This NAMI Walk raises a significant portion of the money NAMI needs to run all of their programs. Please help me support this organization. A dollar or five or a hundred- the money goes to support their educational programs and it allows their classes to be free for all who need them. How cool is that? As an added bonus, I promise not to spam anyone with appeals for money outside of this fundraiser. Promise.
PS: If you are not into donating directly, would you be interested in walking and raising funds yourself? Feel free to join our team! We call ourselves “For Those We Love” and we’re a loose collection of folks whose lives have been touched by mental illness in some way. You don’t have to have that experience to join us- just a desire to help others.