National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Tools for Leaders

Technical Assistance

If you are a NAMI Leader in need of technical assistance for state advocacy, please find the appropriate person to contact here.

2013 State Legislation Report

NAMI is pleased to offer a new resource, the State Legislation Report 2013: Trends, Themes and Best Practices in State Mental Health Legislation found here. Because mental health was in the spotlight this year, lawmakers enacted a wave of legislation with implications for people living with mental illness. As you work on advocacy priorities for 2014 we hope this report will serve as a reference, enabling you to reflect on what happened in your state legislature in the context of other states and possibly replicating best practices from other states and learning from red flag legislation.

Grassroots Advocacy Tools

NAMI Smarts

NAMI Smarts for Advocacy is a popular hands-on advocacy training program that helps people living with mental illness, friends and family transform their passion and lived experience into skillful grassroots advocacy.

NAMI Smarts for Advocacy is designed to be taught as a series of three 1-2 hour workshops or modules or as a single full-day training that develop the following skills:

  • Module 1: Telling a compelling story that is inspiring and makes an “ask” in 90 seconds.
  • Module 2: Writing an effective email, making an elevator speech and making an impactful phone call.
  • Module 3: Orchestrating a successful meeting with an elected official.
The unique step-by-step, skill-building design of NAMI Smarts is effective with a wide range of participants—from those who are new to advocacy to individuals with more experience. Participants routinely share that they’ve never been able to condense their story or made a clear “ask” and, with NAMI Smarts, they were able to. Lobbyists who represent NAMI State Organizations or mental health coalitions love this program—they see participants come out confident and able to share their story in a way that moves policymakers.

If your NAMI State Organization or NAMI Affiliate is interested in NAMI Smarts, please contact NAMI State Advocacy at (703) 524-7600.

Peer Share

The best ideas often come from fellow grassroots leaders. Explore our Peer Share materials from members of NAMI's State Advocacy Advisory Group and feel free to adapt for your state. (more)

Advocacy Checklists for Leaders

Our advocacy checklists offer step-by-step suggestions for pre-session, session and post-session activities to assist in developing relationships, influencing budgets, cultivating the media and engaging the grassroots.

State Facts
  • One in four adults experiences a mental disorder in any given year. One in seventeen adults has a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • One in 10 children has a mental health condition that causes significant impairment.
  • Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, three-quarters by age 24.
  • Despite effective treatment, there are long delays--an average of 10 years--from the onset of mental illness to treatment.
  • Racial and ethnic communities are less likely to receive needed mental health care and, when they do receive treatment, more likely to receive poorer quality of care.
  • Mental illnesses are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for America's youth ages 15-24.
  • Overall, we lose one life to suicide every 15.8 minutes. The vast majority have an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness.
  • About 20 - 25 percent of jail and prison inmates and youth involved with juvenile justice have a serious mental illness.
  • Twenty-six percent of homeless persons have a severe mental illness--over four times the rate of the general population.
  • An estimated 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. 45 percent of these veterans live with mental illness.
  • For people living with serious mental illnesses, life expectancy is 25 years less than that of other Americans.
  • People with schizophrenia die from heart disease, diabetes and other medical causes at a rate two or three times greater than the rest of the population.

View Citations

Media Tool Kit

With state mental health budgets in peril, working with the media to express the need for mental health services is more important than ever.

Elected officials pay attention to what they read or hear in the media--and so does the general public. Media "impressions" around mental health issues help move public opinion and public policy, including budgets.

Use our new Media Relations Tool Kit and discover the many ways you can do your part to strengthen mental health care. NAMI's Media Tool Kit is tailored for NAMI leaders, but we welcome use by all who share our cause.

Included in the NAMI State Advocacy 2010 Media Relations Tool Kit:

Media Relations: Basic Strategy

Media Relations: Proactive Strategy

Media Relations: Responsive Strategy

Using Social Networking Tools