This past spring, staff and volunteers of the Toledo branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness— NAMI — participated in the 17th annual NAMI Walk. The event, held at the University of Toledo Medical Center, is an annual fundraiser designed to raise both money and awareness for the plight of area individuals affected by mental health issues.
“It’s a huge community awareness event centered around mental health,” said Robin Isenberg, executive director of NAMI Greater Toledo. “It’s probably the largest community awareness event that we have in the Lucas County area, about mental health. It’s kind of a nice morning where we all step out of our silos and just come together to share information.”
The NAMI Walk is just one part of the Greater Toledo branch’s year-round services, offering individuals struggling with mental health issues and their families guidance, as well as a safe place where they can find understanding and help dealing with their illness.
“NAMI Greater Toledo is a non-profit organization that provides support, education and advocacy for both individuals and family members who are living with mental illness. And all of our services are offered at no charge,” Isenberg said.
Isenberg is quick to point out that NAMI does not offer counseling, but rather provides an assistance system for individuals looking for a therapist, enrolling in disability insurance, or workshops designed to foster an improved sense of community and support.
“If they were to call us or to stop in, we could offer some information about specific support groups for individuals who have diagnoses, for family members, for young adults. We also provide free education classes to help family members and/or parents understand mental illness a little bit better, and to give them tools to help support a loved one who is living with mental illness.”
NAMI Greater Toledo has been around in one form or another for over 35 years. Long before it became affiliated with the national NAMI organization, a group of three mothers with adult children suffering from mental illness came together to start a grassroots organization of support in the Toledo area, Isenberg explains. “It was basically them coming together and saying, hey, you know what, we’re here to support these adult children. We need some support services, maybe a little bit of funding, we need to organize our efforts so we can better support our loved ones.”
For more information about NAMI Greater Toledo, visit NAMIToledo.org.