Impact Partner Spotlight
NAMI Racine County Gets Through to Community on Mental Health
NAMI Racine County’s work focuses on NAMI’s pillars of support, education, awareness and advocacy. A core aspect of its strategic plan is to "maximize outreach, access and engagement with diverse and under-served populations, including communities of color, homeless, LGBTQ, and those involved in the criminal justice system.” Much of its work, such as support groups and signature presentations, is led by facilitators and volunteers (such as those in the photo) who have lived experience with mental illness. Their rich experiences provide the backbone for NAMI's mission to meet families and individuals without judgment.
1. What makes NAMI Racine stand out among other organizations?
NAMI Racine is the major community agency providing peer support-based mental health services to anyone, free of charge. We’re unique in that our varied programming is available not only to participants—or peers—but is also tailored for the workplace, families, teachers, school counselors, law enforcement officers, students and teens. Although our Racine office is small, we receive updates, information, advocacy and support from our NAMI Wisconsin and NAMI National leaders on a regular basis.
2. Can you tell me a story about a time when you realized your organization’s impact?
I was at a Racine Community networking breakfast and upon introductions, stated my affiliation with NAMI Racine. Completely unsolicited, I was approached by a school guidance counselor about how the facilitator of Ending the Silence, our signature program on mental illness for middle and high school students, made a big difference and was “the only one who could get through to students” on this challenging topic.
3. What do you think most people would be surprised to learn about NAMI?
People might be surprised to learn that NAMI’s surviving, original founders are still an active and supportive presence at our agency activities. We recently celebrated our 40th anniversary! NAMI Racine was started in 1979 as a grassroots effort by three devoted mothers who met in the hospital elevator when their children were hospitalized with mental illnesses.
4. Is there anything else you think the community should know about your work?
We are in process of beginning an every-other-month Speaker Series on mental health support for the community. We’ll be organizing these events in a close, collaborative spirit with other organizations and local individuals. Our first speaker event will most likely be held virtually in May 2020 to align with Mental Health Awareness Month. We’ll be very happy to keep you posted.
Right now, our biggest need for support arises from postponing Night Out for NAMI, our major annual fundraising event, from May to September 2020. This leaves us in a vulnerable position as we close out the current fiscal year.
Our community’s mental health needs during the COVID-19 crisis are evident, and NAMI’s services are needed more than ever. Only through your help can we grow and support all who need mental health care during this difficult time.
Michelle Gehring is the executive director of NAMI Racine. For additional ways to support NAMI’s work, check out Action Online—which replaces NAMI WI’s Action on the Square.