Broad Support for Those Affected by Mental Illness from NAMI, a National Organization with a Strong Local Reach

Broad Support for Those Affected by Mental Illness from NAMI, a National Organization with a Strong Local Reach

Millions of people are affected by mental illness, either personally or through caring for a loved one. While it can feel overwhelming and like you’re on your own, there are many resources dedicated to providing support, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness which has a chapter right here in Valley’s hospital district. We corresponded with Janet Sjoholm, a board member of the South King County NAMI chapter and NAMI Family-to-Family class instructor to learn more about the organization.


What is NAMI? What are its origins?
NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. It is the nation’s leading voice on mental illness.

NAMI is a grassroots organization that started in 1979 with a small group of families. The original intent, that continues to this day, is to help build better lives for millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

Today NAMI is an organization with hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work in their local communities to raise awareness and provide support and education that is not always available to those in need.

NAMI does several things:

  • Educates – We educate with classes that provide information about mental illness.
  • Advocates – We advocate for public policy for people with mental illness and their families. Plus, we provide volunteer leaders with tools, resources and skills to serve their local communities in all states.
  • Listens – The toll-free NAMI helpline allows thousands of requests to be heard each year, giving referrals, information and support to people with mental illness and also to their families.
  • Leads – Mental Illness awareness week and NAMI walks provide awareness to the community at large to fight stigma and encourage understanding of mental

What is your role with NAMI?
My husband and I attended NAMI’s Family-to-Family class which provides 12 weeks of education and group support for dealing with loved ones with mental illness. This inspired me to get involved with the South King County Chapter. I am currently a board member, teach the Family-to-Family class, and occasionally facilitate a Family-and-Friends support group.

Who might seek out the resources of NAMI? And with that, what types of resources are available?
NAMI helps people who have mental illness, as well as their family members or close friends who need guidance to navigate and understand the diagnosis of mental illness.

Resources provided by NAMI:

  • People who are in crisis, such as someone experiencing a mental breakdown, or a friend, partner or family member who is watching their loved one suffer, can call NAMI to get information on what to do.
  • The NAMI website offers a lot of information on mental health. It discusses different mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD, depression, and several more conditions. It shares the purpose of NAMI’s public policy platform. It also talks about recovery and wellness. It provides informative articles such as: What you need to know about mental health; Work and your mental health: a guide for employees, plus more.
  • Connections Support Group A local, weekly support group where people who have a mental illness can talk to peers in a safe and confidential environment.
  • Family and Friends Support Group – A local, twice-monthly support group for family members, partners and friends of individuals living with a mental illness.
  • Family-to-Family – A local 12-week course designed to educate family members, partners, and friends of someone with a mental illness. It covers the nature of mental illnesses and how to help your loved one and yourself.
  • Homefront A local class for families, partners and friends of military service members and veterans experiencing a mental health challe

If someone would like to get support from NAMI, what do they need to do?
If you would like more information about , or to get support from NAMI, you can look at their website: You can also call NAMI South King County, 253.854.6264, to ask about resources, classes, or support groups you can attend, or e-mail to

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Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office