The Florida Bar

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Florida Offers Hope, Help, Education, Support and Advocacy for Individuals and Families

October 13, 2021

By Bruce Blitman, April Chambers, Cindy Foster and Gayle Giese

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Florida’s (NAMI Florida) mission is to improve the quality of life of individuals and their families affected by mental illness through education, support and advocacy. Its vision is that persons with mental illnesses can live in recovery within their community of choice. There are 24 NAMI affiliates in communities across Florida serving family members, friends, professionals and peers whose lives have been impacted by mental illness.

Education and Support

Trained NAMI volunteers conduct free peer-led programs each week throughout Florida. These support groups and community presentations provide outstanding education, skills training and support. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the affiliates have gone virtual. It’s now possible to find a virtual NAMI support group that meets your schedule.

Education Classes

NAMI BASICS: This class is for parents, guardians and other family caregivers who provide care for youth (age 22 or younger) who are experiencing mental health symptoms. This course is also available in Spanish, Bases y Fundamentos de NAMI.

NAMI FAMILY-TO-FAMILY: This class is for families, significant others and friends of people with mental health conditions. The course is designed to facilitate a better understanding of mental health conditions, increase coping skills, and empower participants to become advocates for their family members. This program was designated as an evidence-based program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The course is also available in Spanish, De Familia a Familia de NAMI.

NAMI HOMEFRONT: This class is for families, caregivers and friends of military service members and veterans with mental health conditions. The course is designed specifically to help these families understand those challenges and improve their ability to support their service member or veteran.

NAMI PEER-TO PEER: This class is for adults with mental health conditions. The course is designed to encourage growth, healing and recovery among participants. This program is also available in Spanish, De Persona a Persona de NAMI.

NAMI PROVIDER: This class is for mental health professionals. NAMI Provider is designed to expand the participants’ compassion for the individuals and their families and to promote a collaborative model of care.

PRESENTATIONS

NAMI FAMILY AND FRIENDS: This is a 4-hour seminar that informs and supports people who have loved ones with a mental health condition. Participants learn about diagnoses, treatment, recovery, communication strategies, crisis preparation and NAMI resources. Seminar leaders have personal experience with mental health conditions in their families.

NAMI ENDING THE SILENCE: This is a FREE presentation designed to give audience members an opportunity to learn about mental illness through an informative, interactive slide show and short videos. There are three types of Ending The Silence presentations: one for students, one for school staff and one for families. Each presentation outlines symptoms of mental health conditions and gives attendees ideas about how to help themselves, friends or family members who may need support. Additionally, all three presentations include personal testimony from a young adult living with a mental health condition and his/her journey to recovery.

NAMI IN OUR OWN VOICE: This presentation is for the general public to promote awareness of mental health conditions and recovery. This program is also available in Spanish, En Nuestra Propia Voz de NAMI.

NAMI COMPARTIENDO ESPERANZA: This is a bilingual presentation for Latino communities designed to promote mental health awareness, explore signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and highlight how and where to find help.

NAMI SHARING HOPE: This presentation is for African American communities designed to promote mental health awareness, explore signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and highlight how and where to find help.

Support Groups

NAMI CONNECTIONS: This is a support group for people with mental health conditions. Groups meet weekly, every other week or monthly depending on location. This program is also available in Spanish, NAMI Conexion.

NAMI FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP: This support group is for family members, significant others and friends of people with mental health conditions. Groups meet weekly, every other week or monthly, depending on location.

Advocacy

NAMI SMARTS FOR ADVOCACY: This is a hands-on advocacy training program that helps people living with mental illness, friends and family transform their passion and lived experience into skillful grassroots advocacy.

ADVOCACY: NAMI Florida partners with Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition (FLMHAC) to provide advocacy within Florida. By engaging local NAMI Florida affiliates to develop and grow a network of advocates throughout the state, FLMHAC can communicate, educate, and advocate with policymakers to decrease stigma associated with mental health conditions, improve access to care, and promote a quality, effective state mental health system. Sign up for advocacy alerts.

PARTNERSHIPS

Businesses, corporations and other groups can become a partner with NAMI Florida. For partnership opportunities and benefits, please email the organization.


About NAMI Florida

NAMI Florida is the state’s largest grassroots organization for individuals and their families affected by mental illness. We advocate for better access to treatment and services for people with mental illnesses; provide education and support groups; and offer public awareness presentations to schools, businesses, and the public. Find more information on NAMI Florida and to locate an affiliate in your area.

About the Authors

April Chambers is a marketing leader in strategy, development, implementation, integration and team building in the marketing technology landscape. April is a proven leader with highly developed business skills. She has extensive experience across banking, construction, retail, consulting, and themed entertainment industries. April is the current President of the NAMI Florida Board of Directors.

Cindy Foster is immediate past president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Florida and currently the Program Director and Administrative Officer. Cindy is a certified teacher in NAMI Family to Family, Peer to Peer, Basics and Homefront. She is a NAMI Family Support Group facilitator and presenter for NAMI Family and Friends, In Our Own Voice and Ending the Silence for Students, School Staff and Families. She shares her personal story and a family member’s recovery journeys through the emotional stages from shock, denial, guilt and grief to understanding, acceptance, hope and advocacy.

Gayle Giese is a founding member of the NAMI Advocacy Group of Broward County and President of the Board of the Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition. She is also a NAMI Florida Board Member. She is passionate about helping those with mental illness and speaks openly about serious mental illness within her family. In 2019, she won an Exceptional People Impacting the Community Award from Mental Health America of Southeast Florida. Her 2021 advocacy work is focused on providing permanent supportive housing, passing legislation on insurance parity, preparing for 988, and promoting the Stepping Up Initiative in Broward County, to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.

Bruce A. Blitman, Esq. is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit, Family and County Court Mediator in Palm Beach County. Since 1989, he’s mediated thousands of disputes. Bruce currently serves on The Florida Bar’s Mental Health and Wellness Committee and Senior Lawyers Committee. Contact Bruce at via email or by calling 954-646-1128.