Cristi: The Meaning of NAMI-NYC's Family Support Programs - National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City , Inc.

Cristi: The Meaning of NAMI-NYC’s Family Support Programs

Navigating the mental health system within a family dynamic can be an isolating, stressful journey. When her loved one was receiving therapeutic support, Cristi wondered about support and care for herself. As a mental health caregiver, Cristi wondered what was out there for her. That’s how she found NAMI-NYC.  

Cristi started out at a family support group. “When you attend the group, it shifts your feelings. You truly feel that you’re not alone. It’s a space to cry and there’s no judgement. Instead, the other participants hugged me, handed me a tissue box, and simply said, ‘It’s OK.’ The entire experience released the pressure I was feeling,” Cristi explained.  

In the group, Cristi found weekly support, her community, and lifelong friendships. “Sometimes, my friends didn’t want to hear it. Sometimes, I couldn’t even share with other family members who didn’t understand my loved ones’ difficulties,” Cristi shared. “But a text from a support group participant saying, ‘Hang in there,’ made me feel someone was thinking of me. We were in the trenches together and were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I meet women from the support group at other NAMI-NYC events, our connection is strong and the closeness is real, as we know what we’ve all been through.” 

After finding community and understanding in the support group, Cristi decided to take one of NAMI-NYC’s family classes. She learned more about her loved ones’ condition and how to best support her relative. “At first, I didn’t know my loved one had a mental illness—depression and anxiety. I just thought they were difficult,” shared Cristi. “I know better now—and not to accept the judgement that other family members passed on to me. Mental illness does not define a person.” 

With these positive experiences, Cristi became a volunteer, currently serving as a Family Match mentor paired with another family member. “It’s so nice to be able to talk to my mentees with no reservations and share my story. Each person is different—some may not finish school or hold a job. But there is hope and it can get better.” 

“NAMI-NYC changed my life,” Cristi shared.  “I have developed such deep empathy and compassion for people living with mental illness. Before my family crisis, I might not have talked about it, or I would feel embarrassed. Now, I openly share my story, sometimes with strangers, and it gives others permission to do the same. And naturally, I tell them about NAMI-NYC.” 

To learn more about NAMI-NYC’s programs for family members and friends, visit