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April 6, 2012


April 6, 2012

I was asked to join the Board of Directors of NAMI Austin in December 2011 without having had direct contact with this local affiliate of the national NAMI. I was asked to join the Board because a friend of mine knew I have a sister who was diagnosed 26 years ago with schizophrenia disorder, then bipolar disorder with schizoaffective disorder. She refuses to take medication which as made the past 26 years difficult for her and her family members. When she was first diagnosed, we blamed her ex-husband. My grandmother blamed her mother (my mother). We denied mental illness existed in her or in our family. Had I known about NAMI Austin 26 years ago, our lives would have been completely different. Here is why: NAMI Austin provides education through classes for those living with mental illness and for their family members. These classes are a tremendous resource for learning about mental illness, its treatment options, resources for treatment, housing, and employment, and provides a general idea of what to expect in the future. Had I taken the Family to Family class (lead by two trained family members) 26 years ago when my sister first received her diagnosis, my sister, my family and I would have been spared all of the blaming and the shame of the stigma associated with mental illness and my sister may have accepted treatment had she understood the nature of her illness. When I took the training for to be a teacher for Family to Familyy classes, my life and my relationship with my sister was changed. I finally understood that she did not choose to have mental illness, she does not want it, she can't change it and neither can I. But we can both live with it. NAMI Austin provides education for teachers and providers, advocacy for persons living with mental illness at the legislative and other levels, and helps fund the Austin Clubhouse where individuals living with mental illness can form relationships and obtain assistance with housing, employment and affirmation. Our goal at NAMI Austin is to provide education about mental illness so as to remove the stigma of the diagnosis and treatment. Every family is affected by mental illness in some way. NAMI Austin is here to help.

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