On a Mission: NAMI's Outreach to Veterans and Their Families
Educators bringing NAMI Family-to-Family program to the Veterans Administration have already touched veterans and their families across the country with NAMI's unique brand of education and support.
"The military needs someone who can tell families how it is," says Char Cate, an Air Force veteran, NAMI advocate and co-teacher at one of the classes in Virginia. "The first thing my students say is, 'Why did it take so long for us to find something geared towards families?'"
Sheila Boone leads Family-to-Family classes made up of veteran and community families in Michigan. "The mixed classes work because the program is so well organized. Families do a wonderful job identifying with each other and bonding." She has noticed some themes common among veteran families: "They're starved for information. They're not getting the support they need because some feel they must hide their family member's mental illness."
Brenda Piper, an instructor with NAMI North Carolina, says Family-to-Family's well rounded program is uniquely suited for outreach to veterans' families. "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not the only issue in these communities. A lot of military families are finding that the veterans contend with depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse or a combination along with PTSD."
Family-to-Family is not the only NAMI educational program reaching out to veterans. Samuel Hargrove, who served both in the U.S. Army and the National Guard, says he used to hide his mental illness behind a mask. Now on full disability because of his mental and physical issues, he wishes he was able to return to active duty but has found a second calling in NAMI programs like In Our Own Voice and Peer-to-Peer. "I'm on a mission," he says. "I can help NAMI reach out to veterans, and NAMI has been so honest and welcoming with me."
Our successes within the veteran community are just the beginning of our work with the many military families who are now touched by mental illness. Help NAMI fulfill its mission--donate today and help fund NAMI educational programs, outreach and support.