LivAbility Magazine
Graphic: The words "NAMI Valley of the Sun" above two overlapping silhouettes of faces.

By Gloria Abril and Madison Fischer

NAMI Valley of the Sun is the Maricopa County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness – an organization with many affiliates throughout the nation. We are a not-for-profit organization with a purpose of providing education and support to people living with mental illness and their family members. At the present time, we share an office with NAMI Arizona and PLAN of Arizona. NAMI Arizona is the state office that oversees and supports the many affiliates throughout Arizona. PLAN of Arizona is a special needs trust organization. They are near and dear to the hearts of NAMI because Frances Peterson, a founder of our Maricopa County affiliate, was also on the founding team of PLAN.

As an affiliate of an organization that was created in 1979, we receive resources from NAMI to assist people in Maricopa County with their signature programs, which are identical around the United States. NAMI also keeps us informed about important matters arising at the legislature so that we are able to contact our legislative representatives.

We dedicate ourselves to programs such as family support groups, peer support groups for those living with mental illness, and our classes for the community – at no cost to anyone. We attend health fairs and health forums throughout the county in order to provide free brochures and education information to the community.

The NAMI In Our Own Voice program is highly requested by schools that train nurses, social workers, case managers, and other health providers. The program is a presentation by two trained people who are in recovery from mental illness with the aid of a DVD provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The presentation takes the attendees through the various parts of their lives with mental illness, followed by a question and answer period. At the end, there is an evaluation that allows us to maintain the fidelity and quality of our program. This is at no cost to any agency who requests a presentation. In the past year, Terry McDermott and his team have been able to provide several of these presentations to churches and high schools.

The NAMI Family to Family program is a 12-week course for family members and friends of adults living with mental illness. Two people with lived experience as a family member teach it. They have been trained according to the guidelines outlined by NAMI.

The NAMI Basics program is a 6-week course for family members and caregivers of children and adolescents dealing with behavioral and mental health issues. Trained, experienced individuals teach it at no cost to those who attend.

NAMI Parents & Teachers as Allies is a presentation given by 3-4 trained presenters for high school staff and parents which allows us to provide them with educational materials that they normally would not have access to – all at no cost to schools.

If anyone in the community is interested in attending these classes, please contact Education Coordinator Debbie Martinez at 602-244-8166.

All of this is possible because of the fundraising we do with our Annual Spring Breakfast and our Fall Walk.