NAMI HelpLine Top Ten FAQs

The following are answers to questions frequently asked by people contacting the NAMI Information HelpLine. If you don’t see the information you need, please contact us at 800-950-6264, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET, write to or submit your question through our Contact Us form.

What does NAMI stand for and what is its mission?

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all of those in need.

NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates offer support and education programs for families and individuals living with mental illness. For information about what is available in your community, check with your NAMI Affiliate.

NAMI advocates for changes in society, laws and enforcement and at every level of government, to ensure that all persons affected by mental illness receive the services that they need and deserve. Advocacy issues include money for additional research into mental illness, affordable health care, affordable housing, criminalization, employment discrimination and more. NAMI recognizes that the key concepts of recovery, resiliency and support are essential to improving the wellness and quality of life of all persons affected by mental illness. To learn more NAMI, visit our About NAMI page.

How can I become a NAMI member? What are the benefits of membership?

As the nation’s largest mental health advocacy organization, your membership with NAMI adds power to our mission to improve the lives of people affected by mental illness. Membership dues help NAMI provide free programs and support groups, advocate at all levels of government for access to treatment and services, fight stigma through information and awareness and provide hope to hundreds of thousands of people and families affected by mental health conditions.

Joining is simple through NAMI’s website. You may also join through contacting your NAMI Affiliate. NAMI Affiliates occasionally also offer an open-door membership or reduced rate for those with financial need.

The benefits of full membership include membership in NAMI, your NAMI State Organization and Affiliate, our flagship magazine, the NAMI Advocate, discounts at the NAMI Store and on registration at NAMI’s National Convention, full access to all the information and features on the NAMI website and more.

What can I do in a crisis when there is a threat of suicide or violence?

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis or having thoughts of suicide, it’s important to talk with someone who is a professional. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has trained counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don't wait–call 800-273-TALK (8255) now!

Crisis Text Line offers 24/7 crisis support. Text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected with a trained crisis counselor.

For more facts and resources on preventing suicide, please see our Preventing Suicide page.

If you believe that the person is an immediate danger to themselves or others, please don’t hesitate to call 911 or get them to the nearest hospital emergency room. Our Calling 911 and Talking with Police pages provide additional information on how to deal with a potential crisis situation. You should always inform the dispatcher that you’re calling regarding a mental health emergency. You may also want to request a mobile crisis team or crisis intervention team (CIT) trained police officers be dispatched if available in the area.

My friend/family member doesn’t want medication or therapy. What can I do?

While you may care for someone’s wellbeing and believe you know what’s best for them, adults have the right to make decisions about their treatment.

There could be many reasons why a person decides to not engage in treatment or rely on only some treatment options. Some people make a decision to not take psychiatric medication because of unpleasant side effects or decide to manage their symptoms on their own. Some people don’t think therapy helps. What’s important is that the person is living a life that brings them satisfaction and happiness.

However, without treatment some people aren’t able to achieve the type of life they’d like to have. In this case, a relationship build on trust will put you in a better position to discuss the benefits of participating in treatment and how it may help them achieve their life goals.

Some people become overwhelmed with accessing treatment, managing appointments, transportation, finances, etc. You can play an important role by helping to make treatment more accessible. The HelpLine and your NAMI Affiliate can help you identify resources and options.

It may also be important to have an honest discussion about how their treatment decisions affect your relationship with them. Set clear expectations and discuss the possible outcomes of both accepting and not accepting treatment. Some mental health professionals believe a related condition, anosognosia, or a person’s inability to recognize their own mental illness contributes to an unwillingness to take medication or participate in treatment. When a person has no insight into their condition, it can create a difficult situation where they may not believe that treatment is necessary.

Sometimes a person’s refusal will lead to a significant worsening of symptoms and lead to a crisis situation. If you believe your family member or friend might be at risk of suicide, in danger or a threat to others, please get help immediately.

NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates offer education courses and support groups where this issue is discussed. NAMI Family-to-Family, NAMI’s 12-week free education course, is particularly helpful for family members and caregivers.

Helping a loved one see the need for treatment and working with them to locate treatment services can sometimes be difficult. A book that many families and friends have found helpful is I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help by Xavier Amador, Ph.D. In the book, Dr. Amador teaches a communication strategy known as LEAP. This approach teaches a person how to help someone see the need for treatment, partner with them to identify options and support ongoing recovery. The LEAP Institute offers additional resources and advice on how to improve communication between you and your loved one.

In extreme cases, when a person has a long history of noncompliance, court-ordered treatment or assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) may be an option. Long-acting injectable anti-psychotics may also be an option for people who have difficulty remembering to take daily pills or who have a history of discontinuing medication.

What’s the next step after getting a diagnosis?

First, it’s important to understand your diagnosis. Learning more about the mental health condition and treatment options helps you to better establish a treatment plan that works for you.  

Being well informed allows you make decisions about finding a mental health professional and which treatment settings may be most helpful in helping you achieve wellness.

Many people find it helpful to talk with others who can identify with your situation and provide support. Your local NAMI offers free education programs and support groups that connect you with others affected by mental health conditions themselves or in their family. These groups and courses provide information on mental health conditions, symptoms, recovery strategies and coping tips.

NAMI support communities are also available using technology 24/7. Online discussion groups offer engaged, supportive online communities that allow you to connect anywhere.

Can NAMI recommend a doctor or mental health facility?

NAMI doesn’t recommend or endorse mental health providers or facilities as we can’t speak to the quality of their care. Information about mental health treatment and services and finding mental health professionals will help you locate treatment services and make informed decisions about what’s best for you or a loved one.

Finding a mental health provider that participates in your insurance plan could be an important financial consideration. Check with your insurance provider’s member services department or provider directory to locate mental health care professionals in your area.

For help locating Medicare, Medicaid and other low-cost or sliding-scale treatment options, many people contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline and treatment locator services.

Psychology Today has an online, searchable database of therapists, psychiatrists and treatment facilities. Useful information on each therapist includes: specialties, qualifications, costs, a short biographical statement and photograph.

Where can I turn to get help paying for my medication?

There are resources and programs available that are designed to help cover the cost of medication. Getting Help Paying for Medication includes information on health insurance options, prescription assistance programs and pharmaceutical company programs that discount medication.

Your county or community mental health care center may offer medication and mental health care services on a sliding scale basis. Your NAMI Affiliate may be able to help you locate this center.

If you’re out of medication and need help right away, free and charitable clinics may be able to help.

Can I receive disability for my mental health condition? I need help understanding health insurance, Medicaid and Medicare.

Getting insurance or understanding your current insurance plan may seem complicated. Understanding Health Insurance explains the basics and can help you navigate the system successfully.

Some people living with a mental health condition may need to receive disability income from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Social Security Income (SSI) when they are unable to work. The Social Security Administration provides information and an online Disability Planner and Application or you can call 800-772-1213 for information on the application process.

Some organizations offer help with applications and appeals including:

If you have questions or concerns about Medicaid and Medicare eligibility or benefits, contact the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) or call 800-MEDICARE (633-4227).

Many people have also gotten Medicare and Social Security assistance through the Medicare Rights Center, which provides their MRC Consumer Hotline at 800-333-4114.

Can NAMI help me find a group home or residential treatment?

Securing Stable Housing can help you identify options that may work in your situation and information on how to get in touch with housing resources.

Your NAMI Affiliate may be able to offer suggestions. Also ask your community mental health center, Clubhouse or call 2-1-1 for help accessing housing. Local libraries are also good resources for information.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Locator includes a state by state searchable database of mental health care facilities. You can also call their Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The American Residential Treatment Association (ARTA) maintains a list of specialized programs. The member organizations of ARTA offer a variety of services and are able to respond to a wide range of needs. Check with your insurance or Medicare office to see what’s covered.

I need an attorney to represent me, but can’t afford to hire someone. Does NAMI provide legal representation?

NAMI does not employ attorneys or provide funding for legal fees. We can provide you with information that may help you locate legal services.

NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates may also keep lists of attorneys familiar with mental illness issues, or they may be willing to share informal, personal experiences with local lawyers.

The American Bar Association has online databases of pro-bono attorneys. They also offer guidelines for finding free legal assistance.