We would love to hear from you! Share your story in the form below and help inspire NAMI DC and the community to continue working together to support those with mental illness and their families/loved ones.

I started attending NAMI DC’s Wednesday Night Support Group many years ago. I wish I could have attended continuously but school and work would not allow it. I’ve been to other groups, but I never found one as great as NAMI DC’s. Usually, family members are isolated from the people with mental illness even if they are your children/siblings. NAMI DC has the only mixed group of family and those with mental illnesses. I thought all NAMI chapters had this type of group, but I found out it was unique to DC’s.

As a family member, I was able to get support and understand more of what my siblings were going through. Being around others who have been where you are is invaluable. I felt so alone and frustrated as a family member. I went to my first group thinking I would be able to heal my siblings with what I learned. I left the group understanding how much support I needed for me.

While we’re getting support, we’re able to give support to others. The group is also unique in its diversity (age, gender, income, education, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, ethnicity/race, etc.) which makes it more welcoming and relatable. People from Virginia and Maryland attend the DC group because of how much they benefit. I was surprised how far some traveled, but I understood why after my first group.
My wife and I first had to confront mental illness when our 26-year-old son experienced a psychotic episode when he was living in New York. He came to live with us, but none of us understood what was happening. Although he got a bipolar diagnosis, saw a psychiatrist and a therapist, we still lived in constant fear and anxiety due to various psychotic episodes, several of which landed him in jail.

Shortly after one of those episodes, when my wife and I were overseas and learned that our son was in jail in Detroit, a friend told us about a support group for families and individuals dealing with mental illness. We went to the NAMI DC Wednesday Support Group where, for the first time, we could talk and listen to others who had been through very similar experiences. We’ve been participating in the group ever since.

We’ve gotten (and sometimes given) good advice and helpful referrals; we’ve learned a lot about mental illness; and most of all we know that no matter what happens there are folks who will listen and offer comfort.

We especially treasure the format of our group, which includes individuals with lived experience of mental illness along with their families (however broadly those families may be defined). Instead of “us and them,” our sense is that it’s “all of us together” who are supporting each other as we face the challenge of mental illness.
When my family began to realize the seriousness of the diagnoses we faced, we were lonely, scared, and overwhelmed. We had nowhere to go to learn how we could help each other. When we found NAMI DC’s Support Group, we found hope. We found people who are feeling what we feel and who are finding ways to manage the radical changes that mental illness can bring. In our roughest times, we reminded ourselves that if we could make it to a meeting we could go on.
Being a health care professional, I thought I knew a lot about mental illness. That was until my son received a diagnosis of schizophrenia. I quickly realized that what I knew in my head was not transferring into heathy coping behaviors for myself and other family members.

My first NAMI DC Support Group meeting replaced hopelessness with hope. More meetings replaced helplessness with new ideas to address situations that occur when your child has a diagnosis. I learned a lot at the group: one of the most important messages I got was I wasn’t alone.
I cannot believe how important the NAMI Wednesday Night Support Group is to my family. How can you cope when your brilliant child known for academic honors, who was attending an Ivy League college with honors, had professional quality dance ability, a scintillating personality, gets a job he loves as a political activist, becomes fluent in Spanish, but will not wake up to go to work. This inability goes on for days. I got angrier and angrier with my child’s “irresponsibility.”

It wasn’t until I started going to the group and countless members said, “Yes, when you are depressed, sometimes you cannot move! You can want to all you want, know that you have to, but you cannot get up.” He’s not giving me a bunch of bull. He’s not irresponsible. The fact that he acknowledges his mental health condition and takes his medicines doesn’t solve the problem. With the advice of knowledgeable Support Group members, we learned how to break through logjams to get disability payments and other services for our son.

Giving and receiving support is the essence of our relationship to our Support Group. Learning what our son is experiencing from other people with mental health issues has been a real blessing. Listening to other parents/family members/significant others/friends who are frustrated and baffled by incomprehensible behaviors tells me that my responses are normal. I just have to be nurtured into competence. NAMI DC makes it possible.
My wife and I are natives of Washington. We visited NAMI DC’s Wednesday Night Support Group after our 40-year-old daughter invited us. She’s made significant strides in her recovery and resiliency regarding bipolar disorder, bulimia, trauma, and a suicide attempt.

We thought we’d be supporting her by going, but we found out so much more about ourselves. We saw other families where we were almost 20 years ago when our daughter first became sick — and wished we had known about NAMI DC then.

We were lost during her worst of times and we always thought we were doing everything wrong, we didn’t understand the depth of her struggles to survive day-to-day. We didn’t know how to talk about it as a family, so we didn’t. At the group we saw that families are not attacked and shamed when sharing true, intimate feelings that are hard to admit to others.

Whenever we can, we visit NAMI DC’s group. We’ re able to get more support as we try to support another child with the help he needs.
NAMI DC’s Support Group and President Mrs. Jean Harris helped saved our friend’s life. Mrs. Jean was the only person to get through to our friend who was in the middle of a rough manic episode. At the support meeting, our friend recognized from the group that she needed medical help. We are so grateful to Mrs. Jean for her firm, but gentle and kind words to help our friend get the help she desperately needed.


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