The National Alliance on Mental Illness, better known as NAMI, is a grassroots mental health advocacy organization dedicated to ending the stigma associated with mental illness. Established in 1979, NAMI began building their legacy by creating a simplistic, yet affective, mission statement- “support, educate, research.”
Since its incarnation three decades ago, NAMI has expanded with over 1,200 affiliates covering 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The organization now operates at the local, state, and national levels, but their focus on the local and state levels targets each individual state’s needs when it comes to addressing specific issues within the community. One of the highlights that co-occur between affiliates is the vast array of consumer oriented support programs. Divisions of these include an education, training, and peer support center, a child and adolescent action center, a multi-cultural action center, a legal center, and a veterans resource center, just to name a few.
As part of the education, training, and peer support center, NAMI offers a program called In Our Own Voice, (IOOV) a public education campaign in which consumers are trained to make public speaking appearances at places such as schools, law enforcement agencies, churches, political events, and jails. During these speaking engagements the consumers share their heart wrenching stories of both pain and recovery.
IOOV is a program the state of Tennessee is pushing in an innovative new direction. Tennessee has 46 NAMI chapters, but it is Middle Tennessee that has set the tone for NAMI affiliates all over the country. By using the popular website Ning, a social networking phenomenon that allows users to create and join their own social networks, NAMI Tennessee’s IOOV has provided an interactive platform for consumers, friends, and families affected by mental illness. It’s a place where peers, along with their friends and family, can find compassion, understanding, and inspiration. They also host a blog of the same name, where you’ll find introductory styled stories, journal type entries pertaining to mental illness, information on IOOV, mental health research news, and other important developments in the mental health field.
Because the NAMI TN Ning site and blog are so new, not many people have caught on yet. Another misconception is that you have to live in the state of TN to join in and participate; on the contrary, the goal of all NAMI affiliates is to “support, educate, and research.” Don’t be shy, come join in the fight to end the stigma and have some fun while you’re at it!