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2005 Proposed Resolutions

Resolutions offer NAMI membership an opportunity to express their opinions about issues of concern to the organization. A resolution must be passed by a simple majority vote. Once passed, the resolution is non-binding. Nonetheless, it sends an important message to the NAMI Board that consideration should be given to the issue. This year one resolution came forward for consideration:

Resolution to the Membership, submitted by NAMI San Fernando Valley (CA):

RESOLVED that the letters in "NAMI," the organization's name, shall stand for "National Alliance on Mental Illness" instead of "National Alliance for the Mentally Ill."

Arguments For:

  1. The phrase "the mentally ill" is stigmatizing:
    1. The following statement appears in the federal Center for Mental Health Services list of Stigma DON'Ts: "Don't use generic labels such as retarded, or the mentally ill."
    2. The phrase "the mentally ill" violates NAMI's own policy of "person first language" which emphasizes the individual over the diagnosis.
  2. The phrase "the mentally ill" is offensive to many consumers and family members because it connotes a separate and defective segment of the population.
  3. When the name NAMI is used before the general public (such as in the media, press releases, publications, etc.) a suitable, non-stigmatizing definition is required. The slogan "the nation's voice on mental illness" cannot be used by the media because it is presumptive, so the media is forced to use the stigmatizing phrase, "National Alliance for the Mentally Ill" when defining NAMI.

Note 1: The phrase "alliance for the mentally ill" does not appear in the bylaws of the organization and therefore the bylaws do not have to be amended. However, if there are any current legal uses of that phrase, it is understood that they will be changed.

Note 2: This change should cost very little to make: The use of phrase "national alliance on mental illness" can be phrased in so that printed matter or other established uses of the old phrase can await new printings or other convenient opportunities for updating.

Arguments Against:

The organization’s legal name is NAMI, dervied from our founding name "National Alliance for the Mentally Ill." NAMI changed its legal name nearly 10 years ago after years of careful deliberation and preparation throughout the organization. Despite those extensive efforts, some groups have still not made this required change. Another abrupt change will further burden some Affiliates that struggle with name recognition within their communities. Even with provisions to phase this change in, there will be substantial costs to all levels of NAMI (national, state and local) in reprinting brochures and other publications, rebranding the organization, and refiling any applicable legal documents. Without careful thought and preparation, this transition could prove very disruptive and distracting to the real work of NAMI.

Although this proposal does not change NAMI’s legal name, but creates a new "tag line," it is likely to confuse people who are familiar with the old "National Alliance for the Mentally Ill." People will wonder what happened to that venerable organization that just celebrated its 25th anniversary.


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