National Alliance on Mental Illness
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In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness

For people with mental illness, recovery is the point when someone's illness is no longer the first and foremost part of his or her life, no longer the essence of his or her existence.

In support and recognition of the promise of recovery, many NAMI affiliates offer an array of peer education and training programs and services. Individuals, family members, providers, and the general public have an opportunity to learn relevant information about mental illness, to gain valuable insight from peers, and to engage in support networks.

NAMI education programs are unique in that they draw on the lived experience of people who have learned to live well with their experience and have been extensively trained to help others.

The NAMI In Our Own Voice (IOOV) program has witnessed phenomenal growth in the past year and remains a star among NAMI’s education offerings.

NAMI In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness is a unique public education presentation offered nationwide by hundreds of trained NAMI members who live with mental illness. During an IOOV presentation, two trained speakers share their personal testimonies of living with mental illness and achieving recovery. In addition to compelling personal stories, IOOV presentations include  a video and active audience participation. NAMI’s IOOV presentations have been a powerful learning experience for more than 150,000 people, ranging from college students to clergy to human service workers.

In 2008, some of the program’s accomplishments included:

  • 770 individuals were trained to become presenters
  • 2,000 presentations were conducted throughout 37 states to audiences at human service organizations, churches, mental health facilities, schools, Veterans Centers, civic groups, and other businesses.
  • 46,000 individuals experienced an IOOV presentation

Although the primary purpose of IOOV is to break down the barriers of stigma in our communities, the increase in individual self-esteem, confidence, as well as the expression of the deepening desire to give back and message of hope to others with mental illness, are perhaps some of the greatest outcomes of this NAMI program.

As Michelle Holtby states in her book Bipolar No More, about the importance of being an IOOV presenter to inpatients at a local psychiatric hospital, “Each time I do a presentation, my goal is that I reach one person in the audience. Being able to connect with the audience and address questions and concerns makes me feel that I’m making a difference—that something I say will ring true for them and will prevent them from having to go through what I did when I was first diagnosed several years ago.”

In April 2009, 23 new trainers will participate in an event to equip them with the skills and tools they need to train other IOOV presenters in their respective states. Three of these individuals are bilingual and will be leading NAMI’s first national Spanish training for presenters in the fall.

In Our Own Voice continues its outreach to people with other disabilities, veterans, Hispanics, and others. The new IOOV Presentation Video demonstrates the diversity of experience and how recovery is being expressed by people of all walks of life.

You can learn more about the program and see a preview of the video on the IOOV Web site.

The national program is funded with an educational grant from Eli Lily and Company.