What brought you to NAMI?

It was 2008. Another peer told me to check out NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer. “It’s a great class. And it’s free.” I loved it so much. I was elated when they asked me to be a Peer mentor.

When I was young, my mom took me to see a psychiatrist. He said, “He just wants attention.” Can you believe that? I also remember my mother telling a story about an uncle who died from suicide, but no one knew why. So obviously mental illness is in my family.

I was in and out of hospitals for awhile before I got my whole therapy team together. They’re a godsend, all of them. It’s not easy in the beginning.

How NAMI changed your life

NAMI made me stronger, made me wiser. Everything I do here helps me. NAMI’s the real deal. Like a buffet. You get everything in one serving, no charge. Classes, support groups, social groups, helpline. No limitations, no discrimination. Everyone’s welcome. It’s a very strong alliance for people with mental illness. Going to Albany to advocate for ourselves and others with mental illness… I just love all of this about NAMI.

What’s different about NAMI?

I wish I had known about NAMI long ago. The setting is very comfortable. I learned to share, to encourage, and self-empowerment.

We need to deal with the stigma in the language. Don’t say “suffering” with mental illness! The only time you’re suffering is when you’re undiagnosed, or not in treatment—because that’s when you’re in pain.

Mental illness is not a dirty word. It’s not a curse. It’s just there. It just is.

What does NAMI mean to you?

NAMI is like a church for mental illness. A sanctuary for healing. There’s a warm heart policy. NAMI is the crème de la crème. It’s our own country club…that doesn’t discriminate.

Walking through the doors, I feel like a family member. It’s like coming home. So heartwarming, so welcoming.

We need to educate more people about mental illness. We need a NAMI RV to do outreach around the city. With big blue letters that light up and say, “I will listen”…