National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

NAMI-NYS is the state organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families. Founded in 1979, NAMI has affiliates in every state and in more than 1,100 local communities across the country.

NAMI-NYS provides support to family and friends of individuals with mental illness and persons living with mental illnesses through more than 50 affiliates statewide. Key programs of NAMI NYS include: NAMI Connections, Criminal Justice Program, Family-to-Family and In Our Own Voice.

NAMI Basics

Purpose: NAMI Basics is an education program for parents and other caregivers of children and adolescents living with mental illnesses. The program was developed around elements that have been extensively tested and found to be highly effective in the field

Duration: The NAMI Basics course is taught by trained teachers who are the parent or other caregivers of individuals who developed the symptoms of mental illness prior to the age of 13 years. The course is approximately six weeks totaling 3 hours of training. All instruction and course materials are free to class participants.

Components: Introduction to emotional reactions of the family to the trauma of mental illness; Insights into the lived experience of the child living with the mental illness; Current information about Attention Deficit Disorder, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Childhood Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorders; Current research related to the biology of mental illness and the evidence-based, most effective treatment strategies available, including medications used to treat mental illness in children and adolescents; Workshops to learn problem solving, listening and communication skills; Information about how to interact with the school system and the mental health system; Exposure to personal record keeping systems; Information on planning for crisis management, relapse, locating supports and services within the community and advocacy initiatives designed to improve and expand services, with an emphasis on personal advocates for the parent/caregiver and child on an individual level.

NAMI Connection

Purpose: To support adults living with mental illness. These groups offer a casual and relaxed approach for members to share challenges and successes of coping with mental illness. Participants should feel welcome to drop by and share feelings, difficulties, or successes.

Duration: Meets weekly for 90 minutes.

Components: Free of charge; flexible structure without an educational format, does not recommend or endorse any medications or other medical therapies. Support groups are open to all adults with mental illness, regardless of diagnosis.

Criminal Justice Program

Purpose: Provide consultation, supportive assistance and direct intervention services to families when a family member with mental illness encounters the criminal justice system, is arrested, faces court action or is incarcerated in a state or local correctional facility.

Duration: Ongoing, as needed services. Quarterly meetings at regional sites across the state for NAMI Criminal Justice Family Advocates.

Components: These quarterly meetings will provide a unified voice in educating our local communities along with state legislators on what happens when a person with mental illness is caught in the justice system.

NAMI Criminal Justice Family Advocates will educate those who work in the justice system on understanding the difference between criminal behavior that usually involves a course of conduct and a person experiencing symptoms related to brain disorders.

Family to Family

Purpose: Developed by Joyce Burland of National NAMI, the curriculum provides participants with clear, accurate, and practical information on topics such as the categories: the biology of mental illness; medications and research; crisis management; communication skills; problem solving; self-care; advocacy, and recovery.

Duration: 12-week family psychoeducation course

Components: Offered to and taught by – individuals who have a loved one with a serious mental illness. The course – taken by over 115,000 individuals nationwide to date – is offered by NAMI-NYS affiliates free of charge.

In Our Own Voice

Purpose: Mental health consumers or former consumers share their individual experiences of recovery and transformation.

Duration: All presentations are offered free of charge and last 2-3 hours.

Components: Public education program developed by NAMI, in which two trained consumer speakers share compelling personal stories about living with mental illness and achieving recovery.


Purpose: An experiential course for people with serious mental illness who are interested in establishing and maintaining their wellness and recovery. The course is being written by Kathryn Cohan, a person with a psychiatric disability who is also a former provider and manager in the mental health field. An advisory board comprised of consumer members of NAMI in consultation with Joyce Burland, Ph.D are guiding the curriculum’s development.

Duration: Nine, two-hour units taught by a team of three trained mentors who are personally experienced at living well with mental illness.

Components: This program is offered through NAMI-NYC Metro. Participants come away from the course with a binder of hand-out materials, as well as many other tangible resources: an advance directive; a “relapse prevention plan” to help identify tell-tale feelings, thoughts, behavior or events that may warn of impending relapse and to organize for intervention; mindfulness exercises to help focus and calm thinking; and survival skills for working with providers and the general public.

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