About a week ago, I hopped on a Southwest Airlines flight in Denver, following NAMI’s annual Convention. I work remotely in Columbus, Ohio as a Senior Manager at NAMI, overseeing two of our education programs. Other NAMI members from Ohio were also on the flight and a member of the NAMI Ohio Board, Dave Morrow, happened to be wearing a NAMI cap and t-shirt. As we took our seats, flight attendant Lynda Lassiter recognized the NAMI logo and mentioned how much she appreciates all that NAMI does.
Anyone who has flown with Southwest knows that the staff is very high energy and works hard to make air travel fun. Ms. Lassiter gave a humorous recitation of the safety instructions over the in-flight intercom and then did something truly amazing: she launched into a speech about NAMI. To the entire plane!
As her captive audience prepared for departure, Ms. Lassiter announced that her son has a mental health condition and “without the NAMI Family-to-Family class,” she wouldn’t have known what to do. She went on to say that NAMI is a great organization, thanked each of the NAMI members onboard and closed by saying, “And for those of you who make jokes about mental illness: Stop! It’s not funny!”
Ms. Lassiter was kind and gracious to all the passengers, but she specifically sought out everyone associated with NAMI to thank them personally. I spoke to her as she walked the aisle taking beverage requests and she told me a bit more about her son, a Veteran receiving mental health services from the Department of Veteran Affairs. When she asked what I do for NAMI, I told Ms. Lassiter I oversee the NAMI Family-to-Family program and NAMI Homefront, which is for military/Veteran families. She smiled.
Upon landing, Ms. Lassiter again commended the NAMI folks on board, thanked me by name and then told the passengers that NAMI is a wonderful organization that helps families and individuals dealing with mental health conditions. She closed by asking everyone to support NAMI by getting involved or making a donation.
Before coming to NAMI National in 2013, I was Director of Programs for NAMI Ohio for 14 years. Throughout my NAMI career, many people have approached me after presentations to share their stories. I discuss NAMI in various settings—classrooms, convention halls, on the street, while waiting in airports and on the numerous flights I take to trainings and conferences.
July 10, 2016, however, marked the first time I have ever experienced NAMI outreach at 30,000 feet! Ms. Lassiter spread the word in the best, most upbeat way possible—even confirming the NAMI website address with me so she could share it with a passenger seeking support. NAMI has a powerful message, so let’s follow Dave’s example and wear a NAMI pin, hat, nametag or shirt when we travel—we just might change a life.