National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Why NAMI California’s President Supports In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness

All of us have heard the old proverb: "If you give a person a fish , you feed that person for a day, but if you teach a person how to fish, you are giving them a gift of learning where they can feed themselves and also give the gift of teaching others to fish." This is exactly what NAMI'S In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness, does for consumers. For some it is the first time in their lives, that they experience the joy of giving to others, and, as we all know, this in itself can be a transforming and life changing experience. Some for the first time, experience the first hand knowledge of working with others, who are just like themselves in many respects, and they draw strength from seeing others succeed and encourage others to try harder. There is a special bonding that takes place as the presentation progresses, because all of them become free of the guilt and shame that have held them prisoner for much too long.

In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness transforms and empowers persons with brain disorders who have been hospitalized and told by others that there is no hope for a better and fuller life, into polished public speakers, who tell their stories in an organized way, that touches the hearts and changes the minds of their audiences. No In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness audience will ever look at people who have a mental illness, in the same way as they did before hearing the presentation. The program not only trains consumers to go out into public and tell their own story, it helps them to see and accept their illness in a way that has never been explored before, as the program is taught by consumers that have been trained by other consumers.

I would recommend that every State NAMI Board do everything possible to bring this outstanding program to your affiliates. Consumers will appreciate your interest in them and giving them a voice, they will join NAMI and serve on your affiliate boards. We have one of our In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness graduates serving on our local affiliate board. Family members are also pleased to see their people have their lives changed and consequently join NAMI because NAMI is a family organization and no longer an organization for family members only. All are welcome at the table.

Chet Watson, Northern California, In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness Coordinator
President, NAMI CA, Co-Chair, NAMI CA,
FaithNet Concord, CA