Gina was coming out of a depression at the end of 2011. She lives with bipolar disorder, and had just had a depressive episode. She wanted to do something for herself, something that would make her feel good. So she looked online, and she found NAMI. Specifically, Gina found NAMI Peer-to-Peer.

Peer-to-Peer is a 12-week course that NAMI offers for those living with mental illness. Gina took the course, and found that it really helped her accept her illness. Her husband also got involved and took NAMI Family-to-Family, the class designed for loved ones of people with mental illness. It’s helped them both come to terms with Gina’s illness, and learn how to deal with it.

How Gina Gives Back to NAMI

In 2014, Gina got involved with In Our Own Voice, a speaker program where people living with mental illness go to hospitals and colleges to speak about their recovery experiences. Gina has found that doing In Our Own Voice has raised her level of acceptance, of both herself and her illness. It has also taught her that she is not alone in her struggles. “It’s not just my disease or my illness,” Gina says. “There are other people who live well with mental illness and manage their symptoms. I feel like I’m in great company.”

What Makes NAMI Different Than Other Services Gina’s Used

Gina used to be involved with another support group organization, and she liked it at first. But eventually she found that it wasn’t supportive of her own path to recovery. “I got up and left,” says Gina. She needed something less judgmental.

NAMI is different, says Gina. “The minute you walk in the door you’re accepted.”

How NAMI Changed Gina’s Life

Gina has grown as a person since joining NAMI. She has a two-year-old daughter, and says that her experience has “made me more comfortable with being a bipolar mother.” She highly values her involvement with In Our Own Voice. “I was lost for a while. It’s given me a path and a voice.” She also sees the effect In Our Own Voice has on other people. At a visit to Lenox Hill Hospital, a staff member told her, “I love when NAMI comes. Patients start taking their meds. Patients start admitting they have illnesses.” This made a big impression on Gina.

NAMI has made Gina more active in advocacy and support as well. “It’s made me want to be more of an advocate,” Gina says. Positive changes that she has seen in other peers—and has experienced herself—has made her think that the world needs an organization like NAMI-NYC. “Stigma is such a problem,” she says. “But not at NAMI.” And that’s why she stays.