From Lived Experience to Lifeline at NAMI-NYC  - NAMI-NYC

From Lived Experience to Lifeline at NAMI-NYC 

Susie’s path to NAMI-NYC began with a simple yet profound realization—the power of peer support. Introduced to NAMI through another affiliate and a NAMI Connections support group, she instantly knew that this was the community she had been searching for. At that time, Susie wasn’t aware of the Helpline, but her passion for mental health advocacy led her to it when she saw the open position.  

During her journey, Susie explored various NAMI-NYC programs, including the Living with Bipolar group, NAMI Connections, and the Young Adult support group. These programs provided her with a sense of belonging, understanding, and community.  
Susie is incredibly passionate about the support the Helpline provides to the community. Earlier in her life, Susie struggled to find mental health support groups and resources, and when she did, they truly made a difference. “NAMI-NYC isn’t just a job for me. To work at a job where I can openly discuss my mental health is a privilege,” Susie shared.  

Before joining the Helpline team, she was a volunteer during the pandemic. During this time, Susie witnessed an increase in calls from people who, for the first time, experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many calls often come from family members grappling with loved ones who are resistant to their treatment and are struggling to understand that their relatives are unwell. “It’s incredible to develop these relationships over time and truly help callers navigate family relationships, as well as mental healthcare, supportive housing, and other public systems,” Susie explained.  

Susie’s journey into mental health advocacy might seem unconventional given her background in the arts, specifically dance. She holds a degree in dance and even has her own dance company focused on creating work that raises awareness about mental health. Her previous roles in the service industry and a jazz club gave her a unique perspective on providing peer support. 

Susie grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her early life was filled with dance, but it was during high school that she realized something was amiss. She experienced inpatient and outpatient treatments and partial hospitalizations.  

Susie is grateful to bring this lived experience to her work. “Thank you to everyone at NAMI-NYC for being so amazing. I’m continuously inspired by how passionate you are, and it’s incredibly heartwarming. I want to be here for a long time. Thank you for taking a chance on me.” 

Susanne McHugh is a Helpline Associate for NAMI-NYC. Our Helpline is open M-F 10-6 PM at 212-684-3264 for any mental health questions. or email us at Assistance is available in your language. Learn more at