Recovery is a collective process involving care-givers, family, and friends which creates individual growth through the challenges of having a mental illness. One of the most important principles of recovery is that recovery is a process (path), not an event (destination). This is a holistic process that balances physical health with social/emotional health while respecting the need for medication. People in recovery make important contributions to their communities. Hope for recovery should be reflected in all treatments, services, and supports.
The recovery journey is unique for each individual. Recovery is defined from different perspectives: grounded in medical and clinical values, some grounded in context of community, and others by family & friends. While serious mental illness impacts individuals in many challenging ways, the potential of individuals moving towards wellness is paramount. A strengths-based approach is a cornerstone for NAMI initiatives, activities, and efforts. The NAMI organization creates purpose and belonging for peers on a path of recovery when the isolation of the illness clouds hope.
Specific NAMI initiatives developed to help the process of recovery are:
- The Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Course: is a 10-session educational program for adults living with mental illness which helps them process the challenges of recovery through the group wisdom of peers.
- In Our Own Voice: a public awareness project built around a one-hour presentation by a person living with mental illness. An 11-minute video frames the presentations around: dark days, acceptance, treatment and medications, and hopes and dreams.
- The Provider Education Course: a 10-week initiative developed to raise awareness with mental health providers of the perspective of the impact mental illness has on the family and the individual. A team of persons living with mental illness, family members of a person living with mental illness, and a consumer- or family member-provider teaches the course.
- NAMI Basics: NAMI Basics is a free, 6-week education program for parents and family caregivers of adolescents which informs them how to advocate for their loved one
- Ending the Silence: NAMI Ending the Silence is an engaging presentation geared towards adolescents that helps audience members learn about the warning signs of mental health conditions and what steps to take if you or a loved one are showing symptoms of a mental illness.
- National Consumer Council: the only nationally convened representative body of persons living with mental illness. The Council serves in an advisory capacity to the NAMI National Board of Directors, and includes subcommittees on the issues of Restraint and Seclusion; Ethics; and Education, Mentoring, and Outreach.
State level Consumer Councils: similar in structure and purpose to the National Consumer Council; but established as advisory bodies to some state NAMI Boards of Directors.
Leadership development opportunities are emerging as an important mechanism to help in the recovery process. The Consumer Councils are one important opportunity supported by NAMI. Experiential knowledge (group wisdom) is a common theme in both leadership and recovery, and NAMI provides those experiences.
In summary, NAMI is dedicated to improving the lives of all those affected by mental illnesses. Whether by providing support, education, advocacy, or leadership experiences, all levels of NAMI are working every day to help. Recovery is possible, and people no longer need be defined by their illness, but rather by the goals, hopes, and dreams so vital to each of us.