Never Alone

A Community of People Who Understand—and Are Here to Help

Article by Nicole Browning

Photography by Matthew J Capps

Originally published in Loveland Lifestyle

Whatever your struggle may be, you are not alone. NAMI Southwest Ohio is here to lend a helping hand and act as a guiding light for the Loveland community’s conversation about mental illness.

Fact: one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness, and one in six of our youth (aged 6-17) experience a mental health disorder each year. It might seem like a staggering number, but NAMI SWOH is here to provide aid, assistance, acceptance and understanding for those in the community affected by mental illness.

NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. Their mission? “To provide education, advocacy, support and public awareness, so that individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives here,” states Katie Harper, Executive Director of NAMI Southwest Ohio. “Locally, we serve Hamilton, Clermont, Warren and Clinton counties.” 

And though they’ve been serving our community since the organization’s formation in 1979, NAMI’s doors are now open and proudly located in the heart of Loveland. “Our old space was in an office park,” Katie reminisces. “I felt that since we’re a nonprofit, we really needed to immerse ourselves in the communities we serve. For us, Loveland was ideal because, with those four counties of service, Loveland sits on three of them.”

The list of what NAMI can do for people living with mental illness is close to endless—good news for those needing any variety of help. Through outreach programming, NAMI offers story-telling and evidence-based learning to help people better understand their own struggles and the hardships of those around them. 

“One of the things we do to take the stigma away is just talking about mental health. We do that through stories—because people don’t identify with statistics. You look at a statistic and it’s just a number, so you have to humanize them,” Katie explains. “Every time we tell our stories, every time we share our own experiences with mental illness, it chips away at the stigma surrounding it.” 

While NAMI has a tiny but mighty staff of five, most of their programs are volunteer-led, and everyone who is involved at NAMI has been impacted by mental illness in some way. Katie herself includes her very personal reason about why this organization means so much, sharing how she was inspired when her close friend died by suicide. And like her, all of NAMI’s amazing volunteers have their own stories to tell and experiences to share with the community—each voice making a dent in ending the stereotypes and shedding light on mental illness.

From peer-led support groups to podcasts and webinars (available on your time, at your convenience), NAMI has something for everyone, whether you’re personally suffering from mental illness or have a loved one experiencing it. 

“We do nine-week courses that are really deep dives, or we offer one-day seminars that are a quick overview,” Katie says. “There are weekly, bi-weekly or monthly support groups … and we offer a whole host of presentations as well.” There’s literally something for everyone here at NAMI—maybe the best part is that when you call their helpline, you’re getting a real person who is ready and armed with real solutions to help you navigate what NAMI can offer you. “Our information and referral specialists can help people connect the dots on what recourses are available to them both inside and outside of NAMI.”

Whatever you may be going through, whether mental illness affects you or a loved one, always remember you are not alone. NAMI has so much to offer that we can’t fit it all into these pages—and isn’t that the way it should be? Check out their website, call them, and contact them if you think you or someone you know could benefit from the resources NAMI has to offer. | 420 W. Loveland Ave, Loveland | 513.351.3500 | 800.950.6264

Aren’t really sure where to go for help (or if help is even needed)? Three signs that could signal a call to NAMI might be needed:
1. Chronic (2+ weeks) changes in your ability to function in one or more areas—including changes to your eating and sleeping habits, fluctuation in your productivity, or a change in your activity levels—are common signs of an underlying condition.
2. Feeling extreme emotional highs or lows can be a sign, including excessive worrying or fear, or extreme sadness, as well as having feelings of euphoria or uncontrollable highs.
3. Withdrawing socially is another common side effect of mental illness. This could look like avoiding friends, family and social events, or difficulties understanding or relating to others.

NAMI was started by a group of moms in the 70s who didn’t know how to help their kids. At our core, we’re just trying to serve people—if one in five individuals are affected by mental illness, then five are still affected ... the people living with mental illness, their families, and everyone in the community they’re interacting with.

Everyone’s experience is different—here, people can learn more about what they’re personally going through, and start to form a community of people who understand. That’s the most powerful part of our programs—building trust and a sense of community.

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