By Nancy Kehoe
Before I attended my first NAMI National Convention I had participated in numerous other conventions: the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation, to name a few. What I experienced at NAMI that first year is why I keep coming back year after year. When I think of the NAMI National Convention three words come to mind:
There is a palpable energy everywhere. A spirit of hopefulness, commitment, and equality is present because everyone who is participating has been touched by the experience of mental illness, either because they personally live with it or because they have a family member who lives with an illness.
The reality of a shared experience means that there are no strangers. Everyone “gets it” and that means the language, the respect, the attention to individual needs, shape everything in the conference.
NAMI brings together amazing men and women in various segments of society, celebrities in sports, politics, media who have given heart-felt expression to their own struggles and stand as witnesses to the power of recovery. The workshops cover a wide range of issues that focus on the latest research in relation to medication, programs for recovery, best practice community endeavors, family to family programs and spirituality.
But what I value even more than learning from experts, is the opportunity to get to know individuals from different parts of the country, people who are really fun to be with, who know that it is in coming together, in working for a common cause that something can happen. The journey, although it certainly has its pain, can make people better, not bitter. Being a part of the convention has been a gift in my life!
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