I’m been volunteering for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Fresno for four amazing months working hard to break the stigma associated with mental illness. In 1979 NAMI started with a small group of families gathered around a kitchen table and blossomed into the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization committed to providing support to those affected by mental illness. They offer educational courses to ensure individuals and their families receive the support and information they need. Throughout my time at NAMI, I’ve helped out around the office, attended events as a representative, and gathered donations for their Winter Gala. I’ve also had the pleasure of attending reflection meetings involving their close work with California Highway Patrol. The two have teamed up to create an eight-hour educational training for officers to become knowledgeable about how to effectively interact in the field with an individual who has a mental illness. The CHP is passionate about eventually bringing the training to all law enforcement in Fresno and Clovis.
The Walk to Fight Suicide was the most memorable, life-changing experience I’ve had volunteering with NAMI. The Out of the Darkness Community Walks are proof of how impactful a group of individuals can be when they work together. The latest record shows nearly 200,000 people walking in 350 cities across the nation. The walks were created to raise awareness for suicide prevention and promote resources available. As I represented NAMI, I met incredible people who shared their emotionally moving stories of how they lost a loved one to suicide. I will forever remember that day and my experience with each person. I feel thankful I was included in such a meaningful cause.
Since NAMI has limited volunteers, I wanted to help them create a presence on social media. I posted about national suicide prevention week, mental health month and upcoming events. Recently, I received a message from a peer I went to high school with, he told me he saw my work with NAMI on Facebook and is interested in helping their cause. I gave him information on NAMI’s background, what responsibilities I have as a volunteer and the option of being a presenter for Ending The Silence. Turns out, he has a story to tell and wants to become young adult presenter! I was overwhelmed with happiness realizing the impact social media can have for inspiring others to become involved. Even if you inspire one person in your entire life think of the impact that person will have on individuals in their communities. By educating yourself, you could save a life.
Here are some helpful links if you want to educate yourself to help others, plus watch the video from NAMI on the power of compassion and kindness:
· Learning to Survive When It’s Your Job to Witness Tragedies
· Stigma Won’t Go Away On Its Own: 5 Ways to Speak Out Against Stigma
· With Your Help, We Can Make a Difference in Mental Health
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