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In Our Own Voice December 4, 2011

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, NAMI, Schizophrenia.
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The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a grass-roots organization that sprang out of the accusation by the medical profession that schizophrenia was simply the result of poor parenting.  Specifically, the mothers of schizophrenics were called “schizophrenogenic  mothers”.   Eventually, after years of being blamed for their child’s illness, the women banded together to fight the accusation that they had caused their child’s schizophrenia.  That first organization eventually branched out to include all people with mental illnesses and their loved ones and friends.  The organization eventually changed its name to National Alliance on Mental Illness, called NAMI for short.

NAMI has chapters in all States, and has several different Affiliates in each State. They can be reached at http://www.nami.org

NAMI has several “signature” programs that they offer in all 50 States, including NAMI Basics, NAMI Family to Family classes, In Our Own Voice, and several support groups.  Some of the groups are geared towards people with friends or loved ones who have a mental illness.  Others are geared towards people suffering from mental illness.  Because the needs of the loved ones diverges greatly from  the needs of those suffering from mental illness,  the two groups are kept apart.

I have been involved in a program called In Our Own Voice (IOOV for short) for several years.  This program is free, and it brings people who have a mental illness in contact with groups that want to learn about mental illness.  The program is structured into five parts, and includes a DVD that interacts with the presenters as well as a question and answer session at the conclusion of the class   There are two presenters, both of whom have been diagnosed with a mental illness.  I of course am one part of the team. My partner is a practicing chiropractor.  We are a good match, since we both have had psychotic episodes.  Coincidentally, we both purchased very expensive cars while psychotic.  I have been told that we are both fascinating people to listen to during our presentation.

Anyway, our favorite presentation is the one we do in front of a Family to Family class.  The free  Family to Family classes educate family and friends of people with mental illnesses about their illnesses. Generally speaking, these people are seeking to understand what is happening to their friend or loved one and how best to help them.  It’s our favorite class to give our presentation to because the audience is so thankful that we’re there.  I’ve been told many times that our stories inspire hope that one day their loved one can improve enough to live a better life.

In my portion of the presentation, I talk about what led to my psychotic episode and what it’s like to be in a psychotic episode.  The audience is allowed to ask questions, and we are supposed to make sure that we don’t answer any questions that we think are uncomfortable.  Keeping in mind that one of my “go-to” symptoms when I get under stress is hearing voices, I am asked often whether I’m hearing voices during that presentation.  Since I am uncomfortable admitting it, I deny that I’m hearing voices, which tends to surprise the participants.  I don’t know whether they believe me, but it is a form of self-protection .

I encourage anyone interested to call their local NAMI office and request an IOOV presentation. You’ll be glad you did.



1. waywardweed - December 5, 2011

I’ve been a member for almost twenty years after my son got sick. I also did the IN OUR OWn Voice until I became too depressed to continue. My story is in NAMI’s fall edition, in their person-first column of their national magazine The Advocate (“From Both Sides”). I’d like to do the family-to-family classes since I am still struggling. Thanks for posting the info about a very worthwhile organization.

2. LunaSunshine - December 5, 2011

This is fantastic! I really want to get involved with NAMI now. Thanks!

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