National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Marty Raaymakers was nominated by NAMI Michigan. View the nomination letter from NAMI Michigan. (pdf, opens in new window)
Each board candidate was asked to answer several questions relating to NAMI and the experience they bring to the board. Each candidate was limited to 300 words for each answer. Read Marty's answers below:
NAMI Self-Identification Statement
My bipolar disorder began in childhood; causing disturbances in my learning and social skills. I became unable to attend classes or face employment. Thinking I needed discipline, I joined the ARMY, remaining undiagnosed. Once diagnosed, I pursued and achieved a solid recovery becoming able to help my granddaughter (bipolar disorder).
Why do you want to serve on the NAMI National board of directors?
My name is Marty Raaymakers. I am currently the NAMI Consumer Council Chair. I have been working at the national level since 2002.
NAMI’s infrastructure and view regarding state, affiliate and support group development are areas of great concern to me; especially regarding veterans, young families and persons most seriously ill; which includes those in jail, prison and long-term hospitalization. Too often we try to fit people who come to NAMI meetings into already existing support groups, rather than examining and meeting their needs. NAMI has a great need for support groups targeting these three areas. NAMI members should have access to a support group that meets their needs.
Total devastation and desolation is often what veterans feel as they try to face the myriads of twists and turns of dealing with the largest public healthcare system in the world that is often located many, many miles from where they live. We really need NAMI’s trademark grassroots approach. NAMI needs Veteran’s affiliates that include education and support groups for veterans and their family members.
I know of few support groups that meet the needs of family members that face having their loved one in prison for the rest of their life. We need NAMI education and support groups available for persons who have a mental illness and are in the prison and jail system and their family members.
NAMI needs many more support groups and affiliates that target young families. Their needs are special and unique.
I feel NAMI needs to strategically plan and pursue an infrastructure that can better support member growth in these three special needs areas. We need to plan how to best achieve this, find the funds to support this and assist our state and local affiliates with materials for targeted growth.
Please vote for me.
What financial management or fund raising expertise would you bring to the Board?
Development, fundraising and financial management are acquired skills. One starts out with baby steps and continues to grow along the way. What I have learned that is of the most value is how to network.
External to NAMI, I am on the Board of Mid City Nutrition, which oversees meals for persons with a need and helps fill the food pantries in times of crisis. A crisis doesn’t have to be a national disaster, but pantries being empty. Mid City is a “hands on” board. I have helped serve spaghetti dinners, and have participated in "Empty Bowl" fundraisers and auctions whenever possible. Through Mid City I have been involved in the United Way Campaign and FEMA.
Serving on the Mid City Nutrition Board, the Community Mental Health Agency Board, the NAMI MI Board and as Consumer Council Chair advising the NAMI Board, I have learned to read financial statements, look for trouble spots, and to speak up and ask for clarification when I need it.
In NAMI MI, you have to pursue funding to give education programs. I have done this as affiliate president, helping raise funds to keep our affiliate finances healthy. Our local affiliate also pursues fundraising through Younkers Community Days, and collects monies at Walmart through literature and iris distribution. I’ve participated in both of these fundraisers.
I was involved when NAMI MI was pursuing and receiving funding grants to initiate HUGS, now a part of the NAMI MI Education Series. As a person actively involved in state education, I live within a budget and have written for grants.
While serving as NAMI Consumer Council Chair I have helped envision and construct a role for the NAMI Consumer Council to participate in fundraising activities, enabling us become a more viable part of the NAMI organization.
What is the most pressing public policy issue facing NAMI members today? What course of action do you suggest?
There are many public policy platform issues, veteran’s and children’s issues, homelessness, employment, lack of dollars for funding treatment that works, but the backbone that helps create all other public policy issues is discrimination through stigma.
Stigma is insidious, far-reaching and overwhelming; permeating society forcing persons who have a mental illness into internalized shame and demeaning situations because of a lack of understanding. This stigma becomes deeply internalized.
Employment, simple under other circumstances can become impossible due to symptom exacerbation. Stigma is especially cruel when coming from vocational rehabilitation personnel, bosses and persons who are supposed to be assisting a person with mental illness.
Stories abound where people pursuing treatment, were turned away because they were not ill enough and then ended up in jail or prison. The blame is then all too often placed on family and friends instead of on the system, or person within that system that failed. Media fans the macabre situations, seldom seeking to find if the person sought help.
Stigma perpetuates homelessness. The "Not In My Back Yard" situation causes us not to want to try again. Also, people previously jailed are often ineligible for low-income housing.
Families with young children, who are ill, face stigma with other family members, when seeking help and in the community. Placing a child on medications can foster firestorms of criticism.
One way I choose to combat stigma is with choosing to change wording, seldom choosing to use the word consumer, even when it would help my word count. Words are powerful.
Stigma is changed by relationships and education. I fight stigma everyday, in choosing to be open about my illness, constantly educating others advocating at the local, state and national level; refusing to be ashamed. These types of efforts need to be marketed and more available.
What brought you to NAMI -- and what is most valuable to you about your participation in the NAMI movement?
I was homeless. Where I live, being in Community Mental Health doesn’t mean they help you find a place to live. I needed something, some kind of support. I decided to try a NAMI meeting. When I went, there was an education program followed by a break. During the break this man walked up and started talking with me.
He told me who he was. I told him who I was. It was pretty obvious that things weren’t going right. As I talked with him I shared that I was homeless. He told me to wait a minute, turned around and walked over to a briefcase. He pulled out an application for a special kind of housing, especially for persons who had a mental illness.
I remember thinking that I certainly should qualify as my mental illness was ruling my life. But I was very afraid of getting turned down. I just couldn’t face any more rejection.
Then this guy said, "Make sure you put my name down as reference." I had to ask him what his name was. I think he even wrote it in. If he hadn’t, I don’t know if I could have handled the application process.
Anyway, in typical NAMI fashion, after I get the apartment, I see him at another NAMI meeting. He is now NAMI MI state president. He tells me he has a need, the CC representative is ill. He needs someone to fill that position.
Through the years Ray Gauthier mentored me (it’s a long way to NAMI MI board meetings), I learned leadership, politics, meeting facilitation, symptom management, recovery education, and negotiation skills. NAMI MI grew a leader from scratch.
No longer on the NAMI MI Board, I design, write and facilitate the NAMI MI Education Series.
What is the most pressing internal or organizational issue facing NAMI today? What course of action do you suggest?
As a past affiliate president, past NAMI MI Board member and the current NAMI Consumer Council Chair I am concerned about what we are doing to face NAMI’s changing demographic base. Keeping one foot in the past while trying to figure out where to step with the other can be a painful place. I’m concerned that our organizational discomfort could be costing us members.
This can be illustrated by two situations I dealt with last week. In one someone said while looking at a membership form that their affiliate didn’t want consumers, as the membership form didn’t use the word "consumer". In the other instance the consumer felt labeled that the low-income open door membership said the word "consumer".
People who started the organization needed answers, acceptance, education about mental illnesses and support as they tried to help their family members receive treatment that worked.
NAMI’s current members still need answers, acceptance, education about mental illnesses and support. The difference is that lines have blurred as many of us fit in several membership categories.
NAMI is no longer primarily a family organization with a few consumers in varying levels of recovery. NAMI is a family organization but also contains the largest consumer organization in the country. The combined power of these voices is truly an advocacy advantage, but there are times when one voice will serve better at the advocacy table.
With the advent of newer medications, peer support and higher levels of wellness, blurring demographic lines will continue. How well NAMI plans and adapts to these changing demographics will carve our future.
When I join a membership organization, being offered a form that allows me to designate all fitting demographic categories for general information to help in advocacy would be a place to start. Not either or but all.