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Frequently Asked Questions

NAMI National Information Helpline

Click on a question below to link to the answer further down the page.


    • I am in a crisis. I am thinking about suicide. Where can I go for help?

    If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, family crisis, or having suicidal thoughts talking to someone may help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has trained counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don't wait. Call Now! 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

    You can also call 911, your physician, or visit your local hospital's emergency room if you believe you are a danger to yourself or others.

    • Where can I find a support group in my area?

    NAMI offers education programs and support groups that can assist a person living with mental illness through the recovery process. Support groups are often listed on your State NAMI's webpage, or you can contact your local affiliate for more information. Our Affiliates and the families involved with the support groups have been through similar experiences and know of resources in your area to help you cope with your or your family member's illness. Contact Your Local NAMI  state office or affiliate for more information.

    • My friend/family member won't follow recommended treatment. What can I do to make him follow through?

    In the United States, noncompliance is not a crime and therefore medication or therapy is not enforceable except in the case of minors, and those who are a danger to themselves or others.

    NAMI offers education programs and support groups that can assist consumers and family members/friends that are living with mental illness. By visiting the link below, you can find the NAMI group closest to you for more information. The contacts there and the families involved with the support groups have been through similar experiences and know of resources in your area to help you cope with your or your family member's illness.

    In extreme cases where a consumer may be a danger to themselves or others, a friend or family member can petition the courts to have the person committed to assisted treatment. Your Local NAMI will have more information particular to your state laws concerning these procedures. Or you may contact the Treatment Advocacy Center  for information and guidance through the process.  A book that many family members and friends have found helpful is "I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help" by Xavier Amador, Ph.D., available at the NAMI Store.

    • I don't know how to cope with my friend/family member who has a mental illness. Can NAMI help me?

    NAMI offers education programs and support groups that can assist persons experiencing mental illness and their family members through the recovery process. Your local NAMI Affiliate can provide more information. NAMI affiliate groups are comprised of consumers and family members who may know of resources in your area to help you cope. Click here to find your local affiliate group. Click here for on-line information on coping tips for spouses and adult children of people with mental illness.

    • I would like to receive a large quantity of NAMI brochures. How can I get those?

    As part of NAMI’s mission to educate the public about mental illnesses, NAMI offers a number of brochures and fact sheets on a variety of topics, including particular mental disorders, treatment approaches and commonly-prescribed medications.

    Large quantities of brochures should be ordered through our on-line NAMI store.

    The NAMI National Information Helpline may be able to provide some brochures at no charge. In order to keep costs down and to provide materials to the greatest number of people, it is necessary to limit the number of publications we provide free of charge.

    • For NAMI local affiliates, professionals and non-profit organizations, we are happy to provide free of charge up to 3 brochures and 15 fact sheets.

    • For all other members, we are happy to provide up to 3 brochures and 5 fact sheets free of charge.

    • Fact sheets may be reproduced in their entirety at no charge, as long as the NAMI name, logo, and other identifying information remain intact and they are not used for profit. Click here to visit the NAMI National Information Helpline.

    • I cannot afford my medication/doctor's fees. Where can I go for financial assistance?

    Unfortunately NAMI cannot provide direct financial assistance. As a non-profit organization, NAMI's work focuses on support, education, advocacy, and research.

    However, some pharmaceutical companies offer prescription assistance programs for low-income individuals and families. These programs typically require a doctor's consent and proof of financial status. They may also require that you have either no health insurance, or no prescription drug benefit through your health insurance. Click here to view the list of pharmaceutical companies and their contact information.

    Your community mental health care center may offer medication and mental health care services on a sliding scale basis. Your local NAMI Affiliate may be able to help you locate this center.

    Also, you may wish to visit the Free & Low Cost Health Care Service Locator that the United States Department of Health & Human Services has available for a list of local services.

    • Does NAMI offer any scholarships for college?

    Unfortunately NAMI does not provide or sponsor any academic fellowships or scholarships.

    As a non-profit organization, NAMI's work focuses on support, education, advocacy, and research. The following organizations may be able to assist you further.

    Heath Resource Center at the George Washington University - The Heath Center is a national clearinghouse for information on post-secondary education for individuals with disabilities. The Center publishes an annually-updated paper on financial resources. The latest version is Creating Options: 2006 Financial Aid for Individuals with Disabilities, which would include persons with serious mental illnesses. This paper may be accessed online through their Web site or by calling their toll-free number.
    Contact: 800-544-3284
    Heath Resource Center
    2134 G Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20052-0001
    Web site:
    CAUSE - Consumers & Alliances United for Supported Education - Primarily for residents of Massachusetts, this is a program of the Mass. Department of Mental Health, which can provide information on scholarship opportunities for persons with serious mental illnesses. Services include academic and career counseling, assistance with finding financial aid, study skills, stress control, tutoring/coaching, and assistance with crisis while hospitalized.
    Contact: (617) 626-9098
    Kim Anderson
    Quincy Mental Health Center
    460 Quincy Ave.
    Quincy, MA 02169
    Lilly Reintegration Scholarship-To assist persons with schizophrenia, schizophrenia-spectrum disorders and bipolar disorder, acquire educational and vocational skills to reintegrate into society and secure employment.
    Contact: 800-809-8202
    Lilly Award Secretariat
    c/o Lilly Schizophrenia Reintegration Scholarship
    734 N. LaSalle St. #1167
    Chicago, IL 60610
    Fax: 312-664-5454

    It is possible that a state or local NAMI affiliate  may sponsor particular scholarships, but you would need to contact them directly for further information.

    There is also a web site called FastWeb. FastWeb lets students create a personalized profile that can be matched against an expansive database of colleges and scholarships. Visit for more information.

    • Do you have information in Spanish?

    Click here to view NAMI's Spanish Information.

    • What are the side effects/recommended dosage of a specific medication?

    Click here  to view NAMI Fact Sheets about Medication & Treatments.

    • Will this medication work better than the one I'm on? Is the combination of medications my doctor prescribed right? Is my dosage too high? Etc.

    NAMI's work focuses on support, education, advocacy, and research. We are not a medical facility nor are we qualified to give medical advice about treatment or medication. Please contact your pharmacist, doctor or mental health care professional for guidance on the correct treatment of your specific situation.

    • I am/ or my friend/family member is newly diagnosed with a mental illness. What do I do now?

    NAMI offers an array of education and training programs and services for consumers, family members, providers and the general public. These programs draw on the experience of mental health consumers and family members who have learned to live well with their illnesses and are eager to help others, as well as the expertise of mental health professionals and educators.

    Click here to learn more about NAMI's education programs.

    You might also consider contacting your Local NAMI Affiliate for listings of support groups in your area. Local NAMI Affiliates can offer information about mental illness, coping strategies and local services that might be able to help you with a specific problem. Affiliates are comprised of individuals and families coping with severe mental illnesses. They have been through similar experiences and can also offer emotional support.

    • How do I file a complaint against a mental health care facility/professional?

    Complaints about an individual physician/psychiatrist - If the physician/psychiatrist works for a hospital or agency, you may contact the doctor's supervisor. You can also file a complaint with the state medical board, or - if he/she is a member - the American Psychiatric Association (APA) (some psychiatrists are members, some are not). The APA might also refer you to its APA District Branch or state psychiatric society.

    Complaints about other MH Professionals - If employed by a hospital or agency, you may file complaints with the therapist's Supervisor, the Hospital Ombudsman, or Administrator. Therapists are regulated by their licensing boards (e.g. the state board of health and mental hygiene, counseling, or other licensing board). They may also be members of their professional associations (s/he may be a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, etc.). The State NAMI may have the appropriate number and listing.

    Abuse or neglect in an institutional setting: Protection and Advocacy Agencies advocate on behalf of individuals with mental illness who are in institutional settings (such as a jail, correctional facility, or state psychiatric facility); allegations of abuse or neglect are one of their top priorities.

    Complaints of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment in the hospital setting: Report to the Hospital Ombudsman or Administrator.

    JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) Complaint Hotline at (800) 994-6610 -- JCAHO accredits hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes, laboratories, outpatient clinics, behavioral health care programs and managed care plans, among others. Complaints should be related to patient rights, care of patients, safety, infection control, medication use, and/or security (and not billing, insurance, or payment disputes.

    Complaints about a CMHC (community mental health center): You may file a complaint with the state mental health agency. Medicaid and Medicare recipients with complaints about the CMHCs have the following options: Medicare beneficiaries may contact the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Regional Medicare Office and the state Peer Review Organization; Medicaid beneficiaries may contact the state Medicaid official and perhaps the state Medical Review Board.

    Your State and Local NAMI Affiliates may be able to assist you as well.

    Filing Lawsuits: You should seek a private attorney. Click here for guidelines on how to find an attorney. State bar listings may be found at

    • I need a doctor/mental health care facility that specializes in a specific disorder. Can NAMI help me?

    NAMI does not provide a list of mental healthcare professionals or treatment facilities. However, NAMI does offer a Fact Sheet called Mental Health Professionals: Who they are and How to find one. You might also wish to contact your Local NAMI Affiliate for information as well.

    • Where can I find a list of group homes, residential facilities, or mental health care units that offer specialized care in a specific mental illness?

    NAMI is not able to maintain a list of residential facilities or group homes; however, your State or Local NAMI Affiliate may be able to offer some suggestions.

    You can also visit the
    CMHS's Mental Health Services Locator to search a state by state database of mental health care facilities.

    • Where can I find housing?

    NAMI does not maintain listings of individual treatment facilities or other housing providers. NAMI State offices and Local Affiliates may be able to offer some suggestions. In addition, you may wish to contact the local office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They can provide you with information on the Section 811 Program providing supportive housing for persons living with disabilities.

    Also, at our online NAMI Store you will find a publication called A Housing Toolkit. It is information to help the public mental health community meet the housing needs of people with mental illnesses.

    • Where can I go for resocialization purposes or for rehabilitation services?

    The National Mental Health Information Center of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) has an online, searchable database of facilities and services in each state.

    The International Center for Clubhouse Development has an online database of clubhouses. These are places where people who have had mental illness can go to rebuild their lives.

    Your State or Local NAMI Affiliate may also have some suggestions.

    • My friend or family member is in jail due to his/her mental illness. How can we help?

    The National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, Inc and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law are designed to deal with the rights of individuals involved with the criminal justice system. They specifically address the needs of incarcerated individuals, whether they are in the correctional system, or hospitalized in a forensic ward.

    Your State or Local NAMI Affiliate 
    may also be able to offer suggestions and/or support.

    Click here
    to view NAMI's Fact Sheet on the Criminal Justice System.

    • Does NAMI offer legal advice, or have a listing of lawyers?

    Our Legal Center receives daily calls from our members and the public requesting legal assistance. As a result, we created a lawyer referral panel as a service to those in need of legal assistance.

    We require attorneys on our Lawyer Referral Panel to complete questionnaires regarding their specialties, fees, education and liability insurance. Communications to the center remain confidential, as does our attorney information. We do not verify qualifications or credentials of attorneys on our panel, and supplement our listings with the Disability Law Directory of the American Bar Association, the Directory of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Directory and the Directory of Local Pro Bono Programs.

    You may contact the
    NAMI Legal Center by email or by calling 703-524-7600. Please furnish your full name, address with zip code and telephone number to help us find legal aid in your area.

    NAMI State Offices & Local Affiliates 
    may keep lists of attorneys familiar with mental illness issues, or they may be willing to share informal, personal experiences with local lawyers.

    The American Bar Association has an online database of pro-bono attorneys. They also offer guidelines for finding free legal assistance

    You may also wish to consult this state by state listing of attorneys.

    The United States Congress established the Legal Services Corporation to provide low-income Americans access to civil legal aid.

    Legal Aid / local legal service agencies may assist those unable to pay for legal assistance (limitations often apply, such as no criminal cases). Check your local phone directory under "legal aid" for services.

    Questions about insurance coverage should be directed to your provider or to your State Insurance Department.

    • What jobs or volunteer opportunities does NAMI have available?

    NAMI periodically recruits qualified candidates for various staff positions at our national office. If you wish to view the positions available with NAMI click here.

    If you are interested in volunteer opportunities at the national level email our Human Resources Department.

    Please contact your State or local NAMI Affiliate for information about volunteer opportunities outside of the Washington DC area.

    • My employer is not treating me fairly because I have a mental illness. What can I do to fight this?

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment; state and local government activities; public accommodations; public transportation; telecommunications; and public services. It was signed into law by President George Bush on July 26, 1990. Click here for more information.

    • I recently moved. How do I go about changing my address? How do I delete my name from NAMI's mailing list?

    Please send your updated information (including full name and street address) to or mail to:

    NAMI - Member Services
    Colonial Place Three
    2107 Wilson Blvd Suite 300
    Arlington VA 22201

    • What does the NAMI acronym stand for?

    NAMI was founded in 1979 as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. "NAMI" was officially made our corporate name in 1997, after a vote of the membership.  This was done after years of discussion that the full name was not person-first language and perpetuated the very stigma we hoped to erase.  In 2005 the meaning of the NAMI acronym was changed to National Alliance on Mental Illness to further reduce any stigmatizing language associated with the NAMI name.


Update:  January 2, 2007

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When you become a member of NAMI, you become part of America's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons living with serious mental illness. And now you can join online.

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