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My name is Anna, and I am here to share with you the reasons why NAMI on Campus Purdue is near and dear to my heart. I originally joined this organization to help me cope with how I felt while one of my family members was fighting his mental health condition. As a family member of someone living with mental illness, I felt helpless, stressed and scared while my brother was fighting for his life. This organization helped give me a voice at a time when I felt I had none and allowed me to channel what I felt into helping others.
Throughout my time with this group, I have met some of the most passionate, kind and open-minded students and faculty that work tirelessly in spreading awareness about mental health. From being a part of the NAMI Ending the Silence program, where we will educate 10th grade health classes on mental health, to creating new outreach programs for the college community, I am fortunate enough to be a part of a group that is impacting how people view mental illness.
This organization has done more for me than I can describe here; it has challenged me and pushed me to become the person I am today.
Like so many of you, I found NAMI when a family member was in psychiatric crisis. At the time, we didn’t know what that meant, let alone how we could help. In 2000, Bob and I took the Journey of Hope class, which is now NAMI Family-to-Family. It was definitely our “Aha” moment. The concerns and confusion of the past years now made sense. We learned all about mental illness. We found help and hope. We wondered why this information had not been available to us before. We learned that our family was the norm. It took 10 years and four doctors before we had an accurate diagnosis of our loved one. Getting the word out became my passion! I wanted everyone to learn what I had just learned.
I taught a few Journey of Hope classes and in 2006 was trained to teach the NAMI Family-to-Family Education Course. Since then I have taught 13 classes and have met the most kindhearted, caring and courageous people I have ever known – family and friends affected by and persons living with a mental illness. I became program coordinator in 2008, joined the Board of Directors in 2009, and held the office of president in 2010. The next year brought us another leadership change, and I assumed the interim executive director role, soon dropping the “interim!”
In May 2016, it will be time for me to step down. Bob and I have decided to retire and spend more time enjoying our five children, seven grandchildren and cabin in Northern Wisconsin.
To say I have enjoyed my work with NAMI is putting it mildly. I treasure it. I believe in NAMI programs whole heartedly. Taking a NAMI education class or observing a NAMI presentation changes lives for the better. While stigma stifles, education empowers us.
NAMI is a volunteer led advocacy organization. We are able to offer classes and support groups, give presentations, and advocate for all those affected by mental illness because of our dedicated volunteers.
My son was bullied in school when he was 10 years old. This was the beginning of a life I did not imagine he would live. We lived in Michigan at the time and spent many years trying to receive help and find answers. His diagnosis changed weekly, as did the medication. There were times we had to wait months just to see a doctor who would weigh him, take his blood pressure and prescribe medication. I am his full-time advocate (along with my parents). So many people told us his symptoms were “behavioral.” We were sick and tired of hearing that. It was exhausting when no one seemed to believe his own family and that there was more to his symptoms than just “behavioral.”
We moved to Indiana in 2012, and he was admitted to Evansville State Hospital in March 2014. This hospital is amazing and has helped my son in so many ways. I had never heard of NAMI until staff at Evansville gave me information. I was reluctant to attend for many reasons. I was tired of being judged and didn’t want my son’s life scrutinized anymore. As I learned in the past, people just didn’t understand what my son and family were going through; they didn’t understand mental illness. I didn’t want to be given “hope” just to be disappointed again.
After a few months of my son being in Evansville, I decided to attend NAMI Family Support Group in Lafayette. All the worries I had about attending NAMI went away. Others seemed to understand what I was saying, relate to my stories, and understand the things we went and are going through. They did not judge us and, most importantly, did not judge my son. I was encouraged to take the NAMI Family-to-Family course. This, along with the support group, has given me more than I could have imagined. I understand that we are not the only ones going through these things, and to stand up and fight the stigma. I feel great comfort with NAMI and am lucky to find an amazing organization. I continue to spread the word of NAMI and encourage others to attend! Thank you, NAMI, for the continued support and resources!
My son was only in middle school when he started to hear voices. At the age of 19 with two attempted semesters away at college, then a part-time job that didn’t work out, his behavior had changed in little ways. More nocturnal than ever before, he would pace at night. I would occasionally hear him speaking or laughing, though he was alone. As his interest in his friends waned, he no longer needed an “all you can text” plan. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Unfortunately, as I now know, sometimes the specialist who is easiest to get in to see isn’t necessarily the one you want to see. My son’s diagnosis was bluntly and casually delivered to two young interns the doctor had sit in during the first consultation. The devastation was complete. The future I had seen for my very bright and happy son seemed to have vanished instantly. No bachelor’s in chemistry. No marriage. No children. No future at all. The doctor handed us a prescription and told us to come back in a month.
I had no idea what to do. I had medication, but the real questions were: “How do I help my son?” and “How do we get through this?” I started reading everything I could and looking online at various websites. Then, like a godsend, I found the NAMI Family-to-Family description on the NAMI website. Answers to questions like mine are where NAMI shines!
By attending NAMI’s Family-to-Family series of classes, I have learned so much about mental illness: what to expect, where to seek help, and most importantly, I have been armed with so many resources I would never have come across any other way. The instructors have been there, the other attendees have been there, and it is a safe, supportive environment where questions can be asked and the people who know care enough to answer.
I’m a consumer and a NAMI member. Membership is important to me because I want to participate in and support our common cause. I think it’s important that we all speak the same message in unity. I see NAMI members not just giving financial support, but their time, talents and effort. We share knowledge and common experience. We support one another. As members we make a commitment to each other.
NAMI-WCI has made a huge impact in my life. I think of us as a caring family and not merely an organization. I’m grateful for the love and support we consumers and our family members receive. It is here where we are treated like and can feel like valuable human beings.
NAMI has provided my family support, education and encouragement for the past nine months, and I know it is a group I will be closely associated with for the rest of my life! NAMI provided: support in the fact that we are not alone in dealing with mental illness, education in teaching what the causes of mental illness are, and encouragement in the fact that there is help for the person living with mental illness.
Our daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago and for the most part had things under control. However, last fall deep depression set in and the will to live became nonexistent. In a heated discussion with her in October, I asked if she would even be here at Christmas and she honestly didn’t have an answer for us. That broke my heart! We knew right then and there we all needed help. How could we help our girl if we didn’t understand what she was going through? My husband and I started attending the Family Support Group to help us understand her situation and hear from other families who were going through similar issues with their loved one. This transitioned into us attending Family-to-Family, which was the most informative class I had ever attended. NAMI had the resources available to help us through a tough time and prepare us for the future. There is no telling what the future might hold, but with NAMI’s help, I know we can handle whatever comes our way.
I found NAMI in January 1997. Cecilia Weber had arranged for the Journey of Hope education course to be taught in West Central Indiana.
I entered these classes clueless. I had heard of manic depression but had no idea what chaos and tragedy it could involve.
As I attended the 12 classes in the course, I learned that what is now known as bipolar disorder had very typical symptoms. Many other people and their families were dealing with the same types of problems my son was having: erratic mood swings from highs to lows, senseless spending of money he did not have, wild and out-of-control behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, reckless sexual activity, and delusions of grandeur. I felt like I was paralyzed and watching a tornado engulf my family members’ lives. My son’s younger siblings were terrified when he was around. I wanted to help my son but had no idea how to go about it. Unfortunately, none of the social workers or psychologists I consulted seemed to have any idea, either. I felt doomed.
In those NAMI classes (that are now called Family-to-Family), I finally got some answers. The classes began my education, which still continues today. I found fellow sufferers who were not content to let mental illness destroy their lives. Instead they were determined to learn with each other all they could in order to get effective medical help for their family members, learn to communicate with their ill relatives, help them cope and learn about their illness, and eliminate the stigma associated with a brain disorder.
Whether you are dealing with someone who has bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxieties, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, a personality disorder, or other types of mental illnesses, NAMI can and is eager to help you. Contact us so we can provide the education and support you need and deserve.
I did not know what NAMI was; I wasn’t even curious when I would walk past the sign at my work. I didn’t realize how much I needed to know what NAMI is until I was deep into the abyss of mental illness with my loved one and desperate for answers and understanding.
Thank God a co-worker told me I needed to get in touch with NAMI. My husband and I did a Google search and that started us down the path to knowledge. This led us to our local NAMI chapter. We were blessed to be able to join the Family-to-Family course just as a new session began.
For the first several weeks we were a part of NAMI, our family member was still an inpatient. We took this time to learn about mental illness. We came to understand that we need to help ourselves so we can help our loved one. We gained strength from the other Family-to-Family members. It was life changing to recognize that others were living with and experiencing what we were going through. This new world is not easy to navigate, trying to understand who we need services from and where to go to get them, all the while watching for signs of another crisis.
NAMI helped us understand what our loved one is going through and that we are not alone, and helped us break down the stigma attached to mental illness. Our family member is currently stable and our new routine is just that – a routine – and for that we are grateful. To quote one of the counselors, “It is what it is.” Mental illness is and always will be a part of our lives. We have chosen to accept, learn, and deal with mental illness and set new expectations for all of us. NAMI has given us the resources, renewed our inner strength and put us in contact with others like us. Most important, we now have hope.
-Laura & Jim A
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