NAMI National Information HelpLine: Frequently Asked Questions
- I am in a crisis. I am thinking about suicide. What should I do?
- Where can I find a support group in my area? What are NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups? How much do they cost?
- My friend/family member won't follow recommended treatment. What can I do to make this person follow through?
- I don't know how to cope with my friend/family member who has a mental illness. Can NAMI help me?
- I am/ or my friend/family member is newly diagnosed with a mental illness. What do I do now?
- My family member is missing and may be homeless. What can I do to find my relative?
- I have a child struggling with a mental illness at home and at school. Does NAMI have resources for families or caregivers of children and adolescents?
- I am a veteran and recently received a mental health diagnosis. Do you have resources for veterans and their families?
1. I am in a crisis. I am thinking about suicide. What should I do?
If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, family crisis, or are 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 (800) 273-TALK (8255) now!
For a teen crisis line, contact the Covenant House Nineline at (800) 999-9999, which is operational from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time, seven days a week.
For more facts and resources on suicide, please click here.
You can also call 911, a mobile crisis team, your physician or visit your local hospital's emergency room if you believe you are a danger to yourself or others.
2. Where can I find a support group in my area? What are NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups? How much do they cost?
Many NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates offer an array of support groups and education courses to assist persons living with mental illness and family members through the recovery process. NAMI Affiliate leaders have been through similar experiences and they can often offer personal strategies and community resources to help you cope with your or your family member's illness.
NAMI support groups are free, although we highly appreciate your membership. Contact your NAMI Affiliate or NAMI State Organization for more information on groups and learn about the benefits of membership by visiting our website.
For more information on NAMI Connection: Recovery Support Groups or NAMI Family Support Groups please click here.
3. My friend/family member won't follow recommended treatment. What can I do to make this person follow through?
In the United States, noncompliance to treatment is not a crime. Medication or therapy is not enforceable, except in the case of minors and those who are a danger to themselves or others.
If your feel like your family member or friend meets the criteria as a danger to themselves or others, you may contact 911 and ask for a crisis intervention officer to be sent to the location. Your community may also have a crisis intervention team (CIT) that could respond to an emergency situation. Your local NAMI Affiliate may be able to provide you with contact information for a CIT in your community.
NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates offer education courses and support groups to assist family, friends and caregivers of those living with the mental illness. NAMI Family-to-Family, NAMI’s 12-week free education course, is particularly helpful and will address many of your concerns. You will find that you are not alone, and the instructors and other families in the course have been through similar experiences. You will learn from their personal strategies to help you cope.
In extreme cases, when a person has a long history of noncompliance, assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) may be an option. (AOT) is court-ordered treatment (including medication) for individuals with severe mental illness who meet strict legal criteria. Generally, a violation of the court order can result in a hospitalization for further treatment. Your State NAMI Organization or local NAMI Affiliate will have more information particular to your state laws concerning these procedures.
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 www.amazon.com, through your local book store or your local library.
NAMI offers a fact sheet on anosognosia (impaired awareness of illness), which explains why it is believed that some individuals diagnosed with major mental illness do not believe that they are ill.
4. I don't know how to cope with my friend/family member who has a mental illness. Can NAMI help me?
Many NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates offer an array of education programs and support groups to assist persons experiencing mental illness and their family members. NAMI’s Family-to-Family education course is ideal for family members, friends and other caregivers seeking answers. Ongoing support groups provide a safe place to talk to other people going through similar situations. Because many NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates comprised of those who have mental illness and family members, they may know of additional community resources to help you cope. Click here to find your NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliate.
5. I am/ or my friend/family member is newly diagnosed with a mental illness. What do I do now?
We encourage you to start by informing yourself about mental illness. This can be done by attending an education or support program or by requesting general information, fact sheets, and brochures about your illness.
Many people find that, at the beginning of their recovery process, they just need someone to talk to who can understand and provide emotional support. The NAMI HelpLine volunteers and staff are caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable. They can provide general information about mental illness and provide referrals to appropriate resources. Many have had first-hand experiences with mental illness, either as a family member or as a person living with mental illness. You can reach HelpLine representatives by calling 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. ET or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAMI State Organization and NAMI Affiliates offer an array of education programs and services for people living with mental illness, family members, and the general public. These programs draw on the experiences of those who are affected directly by mental illness. They also offer information about mental illness, coping strategies and local services that could help you with a specific problem.
6. My family member is missing and may be homeless. What can I do to find my relative?
People with mental illness cannot always communicate their thoughts clearly or understand what others are saying to them. In confusion, some will retreat. Others have grandiose ideas and cannot make sound judgments. Sometimes they leave home or other secure surroundings, and they become homeless or missing leaving family members distraught and desperate to locate their loved ones.
If you have a missing loved one with serious mental illness, our online Missing Persons Support website section lists several steps and resources that could aid you in your search. The website includes NAMI’s Persons with Mental Illness Who Are Homeless and Missing: A Guide for Families, a link to the National Missing Persons Database and other online resources. Please contact your NAMI State Organization and NAMI Affiliate as they may know of additional resources that are unique to your community.
7. I have a child struggling with a mental illness at home and at school. Does NAMI have resources for families or caregivers of children and adolescents?
Learn the facts about child and adolescent mental health, treatment options, and the mental healthcare system by visiting our Child and Adolescent Action Center (CAAC) web section. We offer fact sheets about early-onset mental illnesses, evidence-based treatment practices, system issues such as juvenile justice reform, the tragedy of custody relinquishment and much more. You can also request printed resources and information by contacting us.
For information specifically for families, caregivers and youth, click here.
For information on schools, education programs and our NAMI Parents and Teachers as Allies program, click here.
You may also be interested in NAMI Basics, our new national signature education program for parents and caregivers of children and adolescents living with mental health conditions. This six-session course is taught by trained teachers who are also parents/caregivers of individuals who developed the symptoms of mental health conditions in childhood. It provides the fundamentals of caring for yourself, your family, and your child with a mental health condition. To find out if this program is offered near you, contact your State NAMI Organization and NAMI Affiliate.
8. I am a veteran and recently received a mental health diagnosis. Do you have resources for veterans and their families?
With our Veterans Resources Center, we have worked to consolidate the most useful online resources to assist veterans, families and advocates. Whether you are looking for information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, mental illness or how to obtain Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, we have provided an extensive list of sites online where we hope you can find the information you need.