Earlier this month, beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life after suffering from a deep depression, a situation that the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Champlain Valley (NAMI-CV) tries to prevent from happening one day at a time.
“Most of the suicides from last year and the previous years were from people who were not connected to mental health services, and it seems that those people, for whatever reason, may have been afraid of accessing services,” said Amanda Bulris, executive director of NAMI-CV. “So, what NAMI tends to do is break down the stigma, and the barriers associated within all this, in hope that families won’t feel alone and that loved ones will get help.”
In an effort to make this happen, NAMI-CV will be hosting Running for NAMI, which will take place at Banker’s Orchard in Plattsburgh Saturday, Aug. 30 for the second time.
“It started back in 2012, and it was originally called ‘Minds in Bloom,’” said Carrie Levessaur, organizer of the run. “I presented this run as an idea to the board [because] I thought it was a great way to bring mental health and physical health together.
“What I like about this run is that when we did the first run, we had over 60 people, and you couldn’t tell who had a mental illness or not.”
The children’s race will begin at 10 a.m, and the adult race will begin immediately after. There will also be free games for children.
To sponsor Running for NAMI, donations of $25 will be appreciated. Registration for the 5K run is $20. The children’s run is free, but a donation is suggested to be made of at least $1.
Registration will be available onsite at 9:30 a.m, and pre-registration is available online at nami-cv.org or by phone number 561-2685 ext. 10. The first 50 people to register will receive a free t-shirt.
“I think people should run for NAMI because a lot of people deal with some kind of issue whether they’re depressed, they have a mental illness or they know someone who has mental illness,” Levessaur said. “Supporting a loved one can make a really big difference in recovery.
“Support could even mean saving someone’s life.”
NAMI-CV is an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families.
Founded in 1979, NAMI has affiliates in every state and more than 1,100 local communities across the country, including the communities located in the Champlain Valley.
“As far as NAMI’s go, we are one of the most successful NAMI’s in the country,” said Lowell Wurster, board member for NAMI-CV. “A lot of NAMI’s in other counties are run out of some people’s homes, and [because of] the fact that we have an office and a staff, we’ve become a really good example of what NAMI’s can be and how much they can do for the community.”
NAMI-CV provides free education, advocacy and support to all those affected by serious mental illnesses, emotional behavioral disorders and other brain disorders in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.
The organization supports, advances and defends the rights, interests and welfare of persons of all ages with mental illnesses to ensure that they are protected from abuse, possible harm or exploitation, advocating for and supporting neurobiological research to improve research and treatments, discover the causes of, and promote recovery from mental illnesses.
Lastly, the organization educates the public and government officials about mental illness, focusing mostly on the urgency of meeting the personal, health, social, vocational and housing needs of people with mental illnesses.
“Back in 2008, I had some issues I was dealing with some family members, and I got acquainted with NAMI,” Levessaur said. “Through NAMI’s education, their classes and their support, every one of our family members have gotten some kind of help to help us cope and deal with what we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
“They practically saved my whole family.”
The primary purposes of NAMI-CV’s peer advocacy program are to assist consumers in resolving complaints with human services and support services, protect the rights of consumers, promote empowerment and recovery and educate consumers about available services.
With this program comes a peer advocate. This educator will help the consumer determine exactly what kind of assistance is needed and the type and extent of involvement that he or she wants.
This requested assistance can take many different forms including helping the consumer define the problem and some possible solutions or strategies for addressing it, working with providers of mental health services or community agencies, helping the consumer access and review mental health or other records and more.
“It provides a solution focused advocate whereby we assist people with some of their basic needs whether it be helping them access mental health services and helping them apply for benefits,” Bulris said. “It’s very individualized in terms of whatever the needs might be for that person.”
NAMI-CV’s Impeerium Peer Network is a peer-based program that was created two years ago to provide mutual support for those who have used mental health services or are currently using them.
Impeerium is for those that need to receive services as well as for those who want to help others who need help, with the overall point of this program being to promote community integration.
“Years ago, all the mentally ill used to go to groups who were all mentally ill or they used to have their own segregated groups,” Bulris said. “Now, it’s about integrating people into the community.”
NAMI-CV provides different educational options such as Family-to-Family, which is a 12-session educational program for family members with a loved one with a mental illness, along with Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP), a 12-session program for mental health consumers and those who love and care about them.
“This program (WRAP) focuses on a curriculum but also the idea of creating what we call a ‘wellness toolbox;’ things you can do when you’re not feeling so well that can prevent you from becoming extremely ill,” Bulris said.
Besides educational sessions, NAMI-CV has an extensive library of books and videos for check-out, as well as free brochures and materials.
Also, NAMI-CV hosts free community presentations on a variety of mental health topics such as suicide education and prevention, children’s mental health issues and more.
“The classes help them to get to know themselves and to learn some new skills,” Bulris said. “There is no cure for mental illness, but to be able to learn the skills to help manage the symptoms and live with the symptoms, people can and do recover.
“Despite the fact that a person is struggling, there is hope.”
NAMI-CV is a membership organization. If anyone would like to join, print the file located on its website and return the form to them or fill it out online and pay the dues with PayPal.
Membership rates are $3 for an open door membership or $35 for a regular membership.
NAMI-CV also offers many different events to help raise awareness of the organization including soup cook offs and anti-stigma concerts.
To see their upcoming events or learn more about their organization, visit their website nami-cv.org or call 518-561-2685.
“This run not only serves as a fundraiser, but it serves as an awareness event,” Bulris said. “We’re hoping that the community will show their support for mental health and mental illness.”