For the family of an individual diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, the news can be devastating. With more than 13 million Americans living with serious mental illness, the costs of mental illness are staggering, from lost earnings and school dropout to hospitalizations. However, research has demonstrated that most people who receive timely, evidence-based treatment can achieve positive outcomes and live productively in the community. NAMI Northside Atlanta, the largest Georgia affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is dedicated to early intervention and rebuilding the lives of individuals and families through support, education, advocacy and research.
NAMI Northside Atlanta provides regular free support groups and education classes, including a 12-week evidence-based Family to Family class, as well as presentations by professionals on a wide range of issues relevant to individuals and families affected by mental illness. In addition, the organization seeks to increase awareness of mental health issues by networking with local community leaders. The organization’s FaithNet program works with faith groups and religious leaders to help them better understand mental illness in order to fulfill their goals of supporting and reaching out to those with mental illness. The NAMI Parents and Teachers as Allies program trains teachers to recognize early signs of mental illness in students to promote diagnosis and support of children at an early stage. The Ending the Silence program helps middle and high schoolers understand mental illness, teaching students about the warning signs for themselves and their friends.
NAMI spearheads advocacy for several mental health issues. NAMI Northside has worked closely with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in advocating for the development and expansion of statewide Crisis Intervention Teams, a national model designed to promote awareness of mental illness among law enforcement officers and to teach officers how to deescalate situations and improve the outcomes of their interactions with people with mental illness. Through these efforts, the organization seeks to ensure that individuals in crisis get help, advocating with the motto “treatment, not jail.”
NAMI Northside is working with PBPA volunteers to update the organization’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, as well as to streamline its policies and procedures for ensuring the governance and health of the organization. NAMI Northside hopes that its work developing strong organization structure and governance will allow it to share best practices with other local NAMI branches in the interest of furthering its mission throughout Georgia. President Dave Lushbaugh, a longtime mental health advocate, explained that the improved coordination and efficiency provided by this work is essential to allowing the organization to “get back to what we need to be doing: support, education, advocacy and research.”