Conversation with NAMI Virginia
November 10, 2021
Hi Jeff! You are the program director for NAMI Central Virginia. Can you tell me a little about the National Alliance for Mental Illness Central Virginia Chapter? What is your purpose and mission?
NAMI’s mission is to provide free education, support, and advocacy for individuals and families affected by serious mental illness. At the local affiliate level, NAMI Central Virginia (CVA) manages the support groups, presentations, and classes offered in the areas surrounding Richmond and Petersburg. We also work with community stakeholders (Community Services Boards (CSBs), hospitals, other non-profits) to stay informed about current trends & resources in our area.
What types of programs do you offer and are they only for people with a mental illness or are families and caretakers involved?
The programs we offer at NAMI Central Virginia tend to fall into three categories: programs for the general public, programs for the person with the lived-condition, and programs specifically for caregivers. We also connect people with other closely-related organizations like Virginia Family Network and Youth M.O.V.E. Virginia, which provide programming for parents of youth, and youth & young adults, respectively.
We are still primarily hosting things online, but my hope is to have a lot more in-person or hybrid offerings in the early part of ‘22.
For the general public, we offer:
- In Our Own Voice – one-hour presentation by two adults with a lived condition who speak about their recovery journey. We provide this in several behavioral health settings in our area, as well as the local Crisis Intervention Team trainings with police and EMS.
- Ending the Silence – one-hour presentation designed for high-school students, staff, or families. Features a lead presenter (usually a parent) and a young adult with lived-mental health experience.
For adults with one re more lived-conditions or symptoms of a mental health condition:
- Connection Support Group – 90 minute support group that is confidential and peer-led. Most groups meet 1-2 times each month.
- Peer to Peer Education – an eight-session class that teaches mindfulness, relapse prevention, self-advocacy, and other wellness topics.
For caregivers of a loved one with a lived-mental health condition:
- Family Support Group - 90 minute support group that is confidential and peer-led. Most groups meet 1-2 times each month.
- Family to Family Education – eight-session class that teaches about the brain, medications, communication, empathy, self-care, and advocacy. I would say that this is our most well-known program, and perhaps the one that most of our members have participated in.
There are other programs as well, but these are the ones that NAMI CVA provides most often.
How can people interested in supporting NAMI Central Virginia connect with your organization and offer their support? Do you have any resources available for people starting their mental health journey or those who might be in crisis?
The short answer... is yes!
There are many ways to support our efforts. All of our programs are led by volunteers, so we are always connecting with passionate people with lived-experience to teach classes, lead groups, and tell their stories. Even if you don’t have personal mental health experience or caregiver experience, there are other opportunities throughout the year that should ramp up as social distancing measures are dialed back. We do a lot of community health fairs where volunteers can help distribute information, and we occasionally host events that require a few extra hands-on-deck!
Another way people can show support is by joining NAMI Central Virginia as a member. Membership is critical to any NAMI affiliate, and NAMI as a whole! The more members we have, the louder our voice becomes when we speak to our lawmakers about the changes in mental health policy that our community desparately needs. Members are always connected to the latest events and advocacy alerts, and are instrumental in helping us keep our programs free-of-charge to the community.
For people who have questions about their journey or are navigating a crisis, they can always reach out to our helpline by calling 804-285-1749, or emailing us directly. General inquiries can be sent to email@example.com, and specific program or volunteering questions can be directed to me.