GREENVILLE — The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those affected by mental illness, their families and other loved ones.
NAMI helps through education, advocacy and support. Darke County no longer has a NAMI chapter, but it does participate in NAMI Connection. This is a national recovery peer-to-peer support group program for people with mental illness. These support groups are led by individuals who are in recovery themselves, and therefore have an in-depth understanding of what those affected go through. It is open to all adults with mental illness, regardless of their diagnosis. All groups are confidential – participants can share as much or as little personal information as they wish. NAMI Connection Facilitator Evonne Bass said because of the grace of God is how they help people.
“The whole objective of our group is called Connection, to get people with a mental illness to discuss with each other what helps them get through their worst moments,” Bass said. “It is to let them all know they are not alone. Mental illness can be so bad, but it does have a future. When people come here and they open their hearts up, they are getting a good feeling about us. They feel better about themselves when they leave here. We care, because when you first meet us, we come across as very caring people.”
NAMI Connection has been in Greenville for about five and a-half years. Bass and her daughter Mary
are trained facilitators. Mary eventually stepped down and Forrest (Dale) Mills came on board. Bass said they have experienced people with almost every mental illness, such as: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bi-polar, Anxiety, Depression and Grief.
“The whole idea is mental illness is not a fault of the person in which it exists,” Bass said. “They need a support group and they have to have love. If they have both, sometimes it works. People in our group get comfortable and get help.”
Some of the benefits of a peer-to-peer group are comradery, understanding, education and motivation. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), research has shown that peer support facilitates recovery and reduces health care costs. Peers also provide the development of self-efficacy, through role modeling and assisting peers with ongoing recovery through mastery of experiences and finding meaning, purpose, and social connections in their lives, according to SAMHSA.
Mills said mental illness can be compounded through self-medication. Another benefit of NAMI Connection is guiding folks in the right direction of medical compliance. According to Mills, many improvements have been made in prescribing correct medications for people with mental illness, including deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing.
“Within the past year, they have started using DNA testing to determine which particular psychotropic drugs will benefit you and which ones won’t do any good,” he said. “We also have drug companies trying to develop better and newer drugs to assist mental health all the time. We have come leaps and bounds over what was available in the past.”
A typical meeting NAMI Connection meeting starts with everyone saying their first name, their condition and to give a little history about what they have done to try to help themselves. Through that process, the peers and the facilitators have discussions and give advice. Eventually and hopefully folks get help with their issue and keep returning to the group to provide guidance to those just beginning on their journey of wellness. If it takes awhile for someone to get comfortable enough to speak, they can just sit through the first couple of meetings.
“Helping others makes me humble,” Bass said. “We are not a doctor, nurse or a therapist. We are just a person – to – person group helping each other, because sometimes you can’t get to the doctor right away, and something is working on you to make you worse. If you can talk about it it helps.”
NAMI Connection meets every Wednesday from 7 – 8:30 p.m at Safehave, Inc. 322 Fair Street, Greenville.