The Grand Rapids area is home to a local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. With one in five Americans living with a mental health condition, this is an issue that affects many families.

The local NAMI affiliate hosts monthly education meetings, organizes trainings for professionals and the general public on a variety of topics related to mental illness and recovery, and organizes a monthly family support group. Grand Rapids Area NAMI also offers a “speakers bureau” of individuals who are able to come to classrooms, organizations, clubs, churches, and other gatherings to educate people about the organization and its role in the community.

Grand Rapids Area NAMI has designed presentations about NAMI, resources available in our area, and mental illness in general. Three different lengths of presentation are available:

· 15-minute presentation about NAMI, including its mission, classes, workshops, support group, events

· 30-minute presentation about NAMI with the addition of local mental health treatment and support resources in our area

· 60-minute presentation about NAMI, local resources, AND basic information about mental illness disorders and symptoms in both adults and children

Organizations that have hosted NAMI speakers in the past have shared how insightful they found the presentations.

"At the 2017 spring brunch for the women of First Evangelical Lutheran Church, two speakers gave a presentation on NAMI including the support resources in our area,” said Carla Taylor of First Evangelical Lutheran Church. “We were surprised at the amount of resources available to those who need help. Also, one of the presenters was someone who was living with mental illness and he shared his story. The information was very interesting and prompted many questions from the group of women."

One of the unique features of the presentations is that they involve a team of two individuals – one of whom lives with a mental illness and can provide an important perspective. The value of those personal stories was emphasized by Marlo Gangi, M.A. who is a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Itasca Community College.

“While covering the chapter on schizophrenia in Abnormal Psychology class at Itasca Community College, I had the opportunity to have Patty Holycross and her friend Dan come in to speak,” said Gangi. “Students really appreciated learning from people who have been personally affected, either as family members or personal diagnosis, by schizophrenia. Seeing that people can lead normal lives and experience successful treatment was both encouraging and eye-opening for students. This helps break the stigma of mental illness.”

Anyone who wishes to host a presentation can contact NAMI member Patty Holycross at plholycross@gmail.com or 218-259-5108. More information about Grand Rapids Area NAMI chapter is available at the organization’s website: www.namigrandrapidsmn.org

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