Advocacy is an important part of both the history of NAMI Chicago and our current activities. Our advocacy efforts, today as in the past, are focused on decreasing the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Stigma is the single largest problem in the wide array of issues associated with mental illness. Societal, cultural, familial, and personal ignorance and fear fuel and perpetuate the misunderstanding. Self-stigma, blaming oneself for the illness, deters help-seeking for both consumers and family members.
We strive to empower individuals living with a mental illness and family members in their recovery journeys by teaching them how to overcome self-stigma and to advocate effectively for themselves. Educating individuals living with a mental illness and family members about the facts about mental illnesses, their rights, and available services, enhances their ability to access quality services.
Efforts to educate the broader community include biannual mental health rallies, meeting with local officials such as Aldermen about support for CIT and other cost-effective programs, contacting state and national legislators on upcoming measures that affect the mental health community, and providing consultation and/or speakers for a broad array of community agencies and organizations. We also partner with a variety of coalitions to help bring about favorable public policies, and actively participate in the Mental Health Summit, a collaboration of mental health organizations from across the state of Illinois.
For tips on how to advocate with legislators and public policy makers, check out our advocacy guide.
More information about current advocacy opportunities in Illinois is available on the Mental Health Summit website.
Check out some of our recent advocacy efforts in the media:
Mother’s quest to find treatment for son highlights mental health system’s limitations, Executive Director Suzanne Andriukaitis discusses the gaps in our mental health system.
WBEZ Mental Health Awareness and Law Enforcement, Education Programs Manager Ashley Fontaine speaks on NAMI Chicago’s involvement in the CIT program for Chicago Police.