Community is all about supporting people in need. For those with mental illness, or caregivers of loved ones suffering from mental illness, the nonprofit NAMI Anne Arundel County is exactly that, a community of support.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness Anne Arundel County (NAMI AAC) will host its second annual mental health gala on October 5 at the Crowne Plaza Annapolis Hotel. Senator Ed Reilly is the honorary chairman. The president of NAMI National, Adrienne Kennedy, will be the guest speaker for the event, which will focus on celebrating advancements.
The evening will feature a meet and greet, followed by dinner, guest speakers, a silent auction and awards. The Bo DePaola, Zach Roter and Rhonda Mack Dickerson awards will be presented by families who have lost loved ones to mental illness. A fourth award will be issued this year to recognize outstanding achievement for mental health service and support.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness was founded in 1979. Chapters are spread throughout the country to offer advocacy, training, guidance, support and education. NAMI Anne Arundel County started about 10 years ago and is continuing to grow and influence the community and local government on a variety of mental health initiatives.
Fred Delp, the executive director of the Anne Arundel County branch, considers it a great resource to be so close to Maryland legislature and lawmakers.
“We are able to help them better understand mental health and ultimately get their support on various bills, laws and increased funding,” Delp said.
In addition to working with local legislators and lawmakers, NAMI AAC works continuously to advocate for improved services, raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
NAMI AAC offers educational events throughout the year, and county residents are invited to listen to speakers on a variety of topics pertaining to mental health.
Also, NAMI AAC offers support groups for both individuals and their families, which is one of the most valuable resources the organization provides. A family support group is designed to support parents, caregivers and loved ones who are caring for those with mental illness.
“These groups meet for an hour and a half, and while we are not therapists, we are trained to guide and educate as facilitators, answering a variety of questions about things like HIPPA, SSDI, housing questions, vocational work opportunities, various drugs and medication, and ultimately offer a much needed support group environment,” Delp explained.
A group called Connections is designed specifically for people 18 and older who are struggling with mental illness. In addition to weekly meetings, this group gathers for social outings. Meeting dates and times for both groups can be found on the calendar at www.namiaac.org.
As part of their mission to educate communities on mental health, NAMI AAC also facilitates classes and presentations. The most popular course is called Family to Family and is geared toward parents, caregivers and loved ones caring for those with mental illness. The course helps them learn more about mental illness and how to support those they love. Peer to Peer is a course for those living with mental illness, and it provides opportunities for people to learn more about their illness and support options.
While many courses are for adults, NAMI AAC is actively working to incorporate more offerings for younger audiences.
“We are working toward getting into the schools to give presentations about mental illness to students, faculty and parents,” Delp said.
Other courses, like NAMI Basics, are for parents and loved ones of adolescents and children with mental illness. Family and Friends is a four-hour presentation for those who wish to learn about NAMI.
As part of advocacy and outreach objectives, NAMI AAC works closely with various agencies and organizations throughout Anne Arundel County including the county mental health agency, Anne Arundel Medical Center, Pathways, University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, OMNI House, Arundel Lodge, People Encouraging People (PEP), Vesta, and Psychotherapeutic Services of Annapolis.
NAMI classes and groups are free. Funding comes in the form of donations from various individuals and organizations, as well as a small county grant. Membership dues are also one of the main forms of monetary support.
NAMI AAC volunteers want to grow in their mission of raising awareness, reducing stigma and educating the community. They are in need of volunteers, including group leaders, facilitators, grant writers, and help with the website and newsletter. They are also in need of a permanent office space. For more information about volunteer opportunities, membership, services or this year’s gala, visit www.namiaac.org.