Home » Nonprofit Spotlight: Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

Nonprofit Spotlight: Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

NAMI Louisville works to provide education, support and resources

NAMI Louisville’s mission is to strengthen families and individuals affected by mental illness. The organization leads free peer-led support groups and educational classes aimed at helping individuals and family members navigate the complex world of mental health. By advocating at both the state and local level for those disabled by mental illness, NAMI helps to make changes that provide better resources.
Here, NAMI Executive Director Nancy Brooks talks more about the organization and its goals.

TLR: What are your current needs as an organization?   
NB: Nonprofit organizations always need funding and partnerships to meet the needs of those we serve. Currently we are also in need of gently used laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones for those unable to connect to education, training, telehealth services and community engagement. We always need volunteers to train and run educational classes and support groups.

TLR: Can you tell us about one of the organization’s recent achievements?
NB: We have developed video productions to share with our community and partnered with the Jefferson County Public Schools on a suicide prevention video for parents. This product can be found on our website if you or anyone you know is concerned about youth in their lives who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Our new Stigma Free Workplace Program was launched at the beginning of 2020 and is already helping small and large businesses alike meet the mental health needs of employees and their families while educating management and staff. The goal is to educate people so that when the need arises they already have the tools and resources to navigate the system and gain access to the care they need.

One of our Stigma Free Workplace partners called the office one morning with a fear that one of their employees might attempt to end their life. I directed them to take this individual to the nearest mental health hospital and in the meantime, I called the hospital and spoke with our contact, who met them there. The individual was admitted and got the help they needed. More importantly, the company employees became closer. They talked more about their fears, concerns and life, and in doing so reduced the stigma surrounding mental illness.

TLR: How is COVID-19 affecting operations?
NB: When guidelines for social distancing were put into place, we immediately went into a virtual mode of operation and were able to consistently offer our support groups and classes to those in need. The most difficult aspect for us is the gathering restrictions associated with the pandemic and not being able to host our annual fundraisers. These fundraisers are our primary income and how we pay for our programming and operational costs. Making up these dollars has been difficult.

TLR: What are some areas involving mental health that need more attention?
NB: I am often disappointed in ways that funding is distributed through grants and government. Mental health is at the root of all our society’s dysfunctions: substance abuse, homelessness, eating disorders, physical and sexual abuses, pornography and sex trafficking, gambling, racial trauma, PTSD, etc. Often, instead of helping organizations like NAMI by funding projects that get to the root of the cause, they instead fund organizations that address the immediate needs of the individual. I know, for example, that the homeless need blankets, meals and places to live, but if you were funding youth programming that reduced lasting affects of trauma, taught coping skills, and reduced the likelihood of substance abuse, you would in time reduce the impact of homelessness on our society by eliminating the underlying cause: mental illness and its associated dysfunctions. Unless we put our attention toward mental health the way we have poured dollars into cancer research or smoking risks, we will never solve these problems.

TLR: How can people get involved? 
NB: If you are interested in volunteering, taking a free class or joining a support group, call our office or submit a request online. To discuss our Stigma Free Workplace plan and how it might help support the mental health needs of your staff, contact me at [email protected] to plan a presentation. ■