NAMI was initially established in the early 1970s as a group called “Parents of Adult Schizophrenics.” These parents believed their children were entitled to services and a quality of life they weren’t getting. Over the last 40 years, the organization has grown to include over 900 affiliates across the country that are all working to support people with mental illnesses and their families, as well as provide and advocate for better mental health services.
San Diego is home to the largest NAMI in the U.S. with over 150 staff and volunteers. With an understanding that mental health services are rapidly adopting new technologies, NAMI SD has built three mobile applications, all of which are free and currently available in the app store. Two of their apps, oscER and oscER Jr. San Diego, provide tools on what to do before, during, and after a mental health crisis. NAMI is focusing on developing and scaling the oscER apps into a social enterprise in the Mission Edge Social Accelerator + Impact Lab (SAIL).
NAMI San Diego offers a number of free peer-led education and support programs for individuals affected by serious mental illnesses and their families. The family-to-family program is a free twelve-week course for family caregivers of individuals with mental illness to learn directly from NAMI-trained family caregivers on treatment, knowledge, and skills needed to cope with the challenges of dealing with mental illness. NAMI also offers a peer-to-peer program where trained mentors who have experience living with and managing a mental illness share their personal stories on maintaining wellness and recovery with their peers.
In an effort to help break the stigma of mental health with both adults and kids, NAMI offers several educational programs here in San Diego. According to NAMI SD research, one in five kids experiences mental illness, and only 20% of them actually get help. Through their program, Ending the Silence, NAMI volunteers and mentors travel to middle and high schools to educate students on suicide prevention, mental health 101, and the warning signs of mental illness for themselves and their friends.
“NAMI is one of the best-kept secrets in San Diego,” says Cathryn Nacario, CEO of NAMI SD. “To date, people have primarily found out about our free educational and support services through word of mouth, but we are hoping to expand our reach and exposure by participating in programs like SAIL”.
NAMI SD will be hosting their 16th annual NAMIWalks 5k in Liberty Station on Saturday, April 28th. NAMIWalks is the largest, most successful mental health awareness and fundraising event in the country. Over 750 participants have already registered! To reserve your spot today, register here.
If you or someone you know might be suffering from a mental illness, you can access NAMI SD’s services through their website, found here, or their helpline, staffed by trained volunteers, at (800) 523-5933.