NAMI Westside Los Angeles is one of the leading chapters of NAMI nationally and NAMI is probably the best organization to offer free education, assistance and a community to those with mental illness and their families. If you want to do something to help the problem of mental illness in this country and you want to work with an organization that is already dynamic and has its act together and you live in the Westside of Los Angeles, NAMI should be on your list of organizations to help.
It has been my observation and first hand experience that NAMI Westside Los Angeles has achieved the solid foundation needed by a non-profit organization to effect great change and positive awareness throughout our local communities, schools and mental health systems. The passion and conviction of this group to reach their desired fundraising and awareness goals in the mists of many obstacles is compelling and inspiring to all those who support the cause, and those who soon will!
Sharon Dunas, President of NAMI Westside Los Angeles has been the rock on which this organization has been built on over the past eight years in a remarkable fashion. Sharon Dunas encapsulates passion, commitment, and grace while helping those who otherwise would not be helped. It is hard to find anyone as driven as Sharon, and when you come across someone like her, you know your on a winning team. I believe that winning team is NAMI Westside Los Angeles. I am honored and enthusiastic to be aboard a train that has surely left the station, and now embarks an a long journey to effect great change and positive awareness on the subject of Mental Illness in our communities, schools and mental health systems.
NAMI Westside LA was instrumental in changing my life. Through education and support I was given the tools to deal with a child diagnosed with a mental disorder. Becomming a NAMI member is like having an extended family. The support given by everyone from the President to every volunteer and member is astounding. With the help and support of this organization I can say that my life has become normal. It has gone from crisis to crisis to a functional relationship with my child. I wish that everyone who is dealing with an ill loved one would give NAMI a chance to help.
I was referred to NAMI during a very dark period in my life. My only child had been sufferring periods of severe depression and had attempted suicide a number of times. After years of “therapy” it appeared that her condition was due to our “dysfunctional” family even though manic depression had affected several members of her father’s family. Then we attended the NAMI Family to Family class. There we learned that mental illness is a brain disorder. We had no more reason to feel guilty about her illness than anyone whose child may have had diabetes or heart disease. It was like a dark cloud being lifted.
I have been active in NAMI now for 10 years. Since then my daughter has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. She is being treated effectively with medication; she has returned to school and is energeticallly working toward her degree. My daughter readily admits that the education and support which we received from NAMI has had a positive effect on her life. I cannot express how much it has meant to me. Now I hope that I can help to make those benefits available to others dealing with mental illness
NAMI Westside LA was responsible for educating my husband and me about all aspects of serious mental illness. They went beyond their powerful educational programs to action which enabled us to utilize resources so as to help our son obtain real recovery. They are the only group that provided the information we needed.
NAMI Westside LA is progressive with encouraging volunteers to utilize their natural gifts to make real changes for people to help them achieve real recovery. The volunteers are dedicated and extremely knowledgeable as well as helpful and supportive.
NAMI Westside LA is a unique organization that helps families who are dealing with loved ones who may have insight into their illness as well as those without insight into their illness. Those without insight into their illness tend to refuse treatment and medication. NAMI Westside LA support for these families is powerful and the reason so many people have been regained their life.
As the parent of a mentally ill son, and also as a mental health clinician, I can attest to how Nami Westside LA has been helpful to both of us. The many services provided to the client, family members, and the mental health community is invaluable and cannot be found anywhere else. As a parent I have found both support and resources that gave me some direction on how to help my son. My son has found the peer to peer as well as peer support groups useful for his recovery efforts. And as a therapist, I have learned much about mental illness that has made me a more effective therapist.
I work at NAMI Westside LA because I have a mental illness myself, and when my family and I were going through the nightmare of my breakdowns, we did not have NAMI to support us, especially my family. I know firsthand how essential it is to have support and education for both family members and yourself when you are struggling with a mental illness, and I know that NAMI Westside LA provides that critical help. I have worked in the field of mental health for 13 years, and am incredibly proud to work at NAMI Westside LA, because I see the amazing work they do bringing families and consumers toward healing and recovery. The people who work here and volunteer here are unbelievably dedicated and brilliant, and I am honored to count myself among them.
I learned that there is "no health without mental health" when my only child developed a psychotic mental illness while she was in college. Joseph Campbell said, "You have to let go of the life that you have planned and be open to the life that is waiting for you - a life in my case with mental illness in my midst." My only daughter developed a mental illness. I did not ask what disease was in my child's brain, but what disease kidnapped her and thereby kidnapped our entire family. The disease that kidnapped our entire family was called psychotic depression. She was hospitalized for over two years. She was often suicidal. Her words were, "Mom - I am just not into living." I wept, I had insomnia, I had anxiety and finally on the internet late at night - I found the National Alliance on Mental Illness - Westside Los Angeles. I learned in NAMI that I was not alone, that I was not to blame for a brain biology problem in my child and that I did not have to carry guilt and shame. After all mental illness is like any other illness. It is in an organ of the body - the brain - and it responds to treatment. I learned in NAMI that recovery is possible and recovery is real! In the NAMI signature program - the Family to Family class - I learned about the causes, the prognosis and the treatment of the major mental illnesses. I learned about brain biology problems and I learned about medications. I learned about developing empathy for my ill child. I learned mental illness is an unwanted guest and when you back off and make space for it, the illness often improves. I learned about communication, limit setting and how to fight the mental health system so my daughter could be treated with dignity and respect in spite of her illness. As Nora Ephron said, "When mental illness strikes a family, it is as if a hand grenade went off in that family." NAMI helped me lessen the explosions of the grenade and get on with my life so I could assist my child in her recovery. Today my child has an MFA in writing and she is a Phi Beta Kappa and a yoga instructor. I attribute this to the knowledge and emotional stability that I, her mother, found in NAMI so I could assist her. NAMI Westside LA is dedicated to improving the lives of those with mental illness in their midst. NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to helping those with mental illness turn their lives from despair and hopelessness to knowlege, recovery and hope. According to the National Institute of Mental Health - 57.5 million Americans suffer with a diagnosable mental disorder which is one in four of us. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in the age group from 15 to 44 years old and this is from untreated mental illness. NAMI insures that everyone touched by mental illness receives support, education and resources to create a healthy life in spite of this illness. NAMI saved my life and it may save yours. Sharon Dunas,MFT - President - NAMI Westside LA
Helping this non-profit is very rewarding. The services NAMI provided our family and many others for the past 7 years has been so beneficial. I had to give back and continue to do so every month.
Even though I have only been working with NAMI Westside LA for 4 months, it has changed my life and my way of thinking forever. I was diagnosed with depression at age 10. I refused to take medication or go to therapy for a few years, and therefore my sickness became worse. When I got diagnosed again with depression, as well as GAD this past year, I took my therapy and medication seriously. I became stable, and did a program in Psychopathology at Brown University, where I met speakers from NAMI Providence. I realized that my passion for the mental health field could not continue to thrive if my actions did not speak true to my passion. When I returned from Brown, I applied to be a volunteer at NAMI Westside LA where I met Sarah, the Program Director. I have had the lovely opportunity to get to know her and everyone at NAMI Westside LA. Even though I have been blessed with treatment and even the opportunity to maintain stability, not as many are as blessed. When I found out about NAMIWalks, I immediately began raising money, and by the time the walk was over, I was able to raise $13,000 for NAMI in total. If everyone that walks into NAMI's door gets the treatment they deserve, everyone wins: the economy, because if everyone has mental health recovery, everyone can use their minds to their full potential to improve the economy, families win, and get their loved ones back. But most importantly, the consumers win, because they have a chance to have the life they wanted, not the life that mental illness took over. No one can become physically or emotionally healthy or healed without mental health recovery. I am 15 years old and have learned that, and I want the world to learn that too.
I have been a NAMI member since 2002 when my only child had his first break and propelled me into the dark waters of mental health treatment. As I tried to navigate through those waters in order to find help for my son and learn how to cope with a new way of life; it became my sole purpose in life. Then I found NAMI. NAMI was a beacon through the storm and today both my son and I thank this organization for helping us regain our family life.
Due to my son's illness and the fact that I had a flexible schedule, I got very involved in NAMI. For me, it was a way to give back to a community that had not only embraced me, understood what I was going through, but became an extended family. That is the way it is for us at NAMI, once you have been enlightened by our Family to Family classes, you want and must give back. I got involved as a volunteer and became a Family to Family teacher, a State Trainer in both English and Spanish and now I am on the board of NAMI Westside LA. I have been in other boards in the past and helped in other non-profits, but none have impacted my life and the lives of others in such a positive way as much as this non-profit. Mental illness comes with stigma, for families to take on the task of erasing that stigma while educating, supporting and being a resource to others, is one of the few reasons while I feel that NAMI is so special and vital to thec ommunity at large; I am very proud to be a board member of NAMI Westside LA. Rosina Ehrlich