Strengthening NAMI's Connection with the African American Community

Apr. 03, 2015
AKA and NAMI Knoxville At the AKA and NAMI event in Knoxville, Tenn.

Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Here at NAMI we know this very well. Many of us arrived at NAMI feeling alone and carrying very heavy burdens. Once here, we found a place worth staying at. We found much needed information guidance, support, empathy and understanding. Many of us also found our voices. We came seeking help. But together we formed an organization that helps thousands of people around the country on a daily basis.

We know the value of coming together for a cause. In this spirit, in January, NAMI started a four year relationship with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the oldest sorority founded by African American women. Since its formation more than 100 years ago, over 900 chapters have dedicated countless amounts of hours to serving their local communities on a variety of fronts.

Here at NAMI we are proud to join forces with an organization with such a outstanding track record of community service and impact. Our organizations came together to raise mental health awareness in order to improve the quality of life for African American individuals and families who are impacted by mental health conditions.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Chapters will work with NAMI State Organizations and Affiliates to increase community outreach efforts to inform the individuals and family members within the African American community about mental health, treatment and recovery.

To achieve these goals, our joint efforts will focus on hosting awareness events on April 11, during Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in July at each of our respective national conferences, Mental IIlness Awareness Week (Oct. 4–11) and collaborating around NAMI on Campus clubs and local NAMIWalks.

Many NAMI organizations have already reached out to and are working with local AKA chapters. They mention warm welcomes and experiencing immediate positive results. Here are some of the highlights so far:

  • NAMI Hampton/Newport News, Va. did a NAMI Sharing Hope presentation in partnership with the local AKA chapter.
  • NAMI New Orleans did a Sharing Hope presentation for the Epsilon Tau AKA chapter at Xavier University.
  • NAMI Knoxville (Tenn.) and the Psi Zeta Omega AKA Chapter held a half-day conference on African American mental health.
  • NAMI Memphis staffed a NAMI information booth at the AKA South Eastern Regional Conference which provided the opportunity to share important mental health information with over 3,000 conference attendees.
  • The AKA Regional Director and two chapter presidents joined NAMI Sacramento’s NAMIWalks kick-off luncheon. The AKA chapters will be part of the volunteer corps needed on event day.
  • Local AKA chapters attended NAMI Mercer’s NAMIWalk kickoff event and will join the walk.

These are just a few of the things that have happened in the past three months. Imagine now what we could do together in four years! We look forward to continuing our work with AKA and to increasing mental health awareness across the country.

Comments
Tom Roberts
Delightful news! As a white writer and speaker, I am always trying to find ways of reaching out to the African American community where mental illness stigma runs high because, in part, the community knows what it is like to be discriminated againt because of color.
4/7/2015 8:01:21 PM