In Our Own Voice

Living With Mental Illness NAMI Consumer Program Named In Honor of Nationally-Recognized Idaho Documentary

Jan 17 2002

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has named one of its premiere education programs-in which consumers with mental illnesses speak directly to community audiences about their experiences with brain disorders, treatment and recovery-in honor of In Our Own Voice, a documentary produced independently by Idaho Public Television (IDPTV) with funding from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare.

The IDPTV documentary includes interviews with NAMI Idaho members and received NAMI's national media award for outstanding public education in 2001. It currently is a finalist in the New York Festival and has been made available to other PBS stations nationwide. For more information, see

"We are pleased to honor Idaho's contribution to public education by renaming NAMI's Living With Schizophrenia & Other Mental Illnesses program after the documentary that has become a model for NAMI's 1200 state and local affiliates," said NAMI executive director Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D.

"The new name emphasizes the consumer-led nature of the program and more accurately reflects its current focus on all mental illnesses. It also is an appropriate way to honor the inherent dignity and courage of people who actually struggle with mental illnesses as part of their life experience and are the backbone of NAMI's campaign to end discrimination and build partnerships for recovery in every community throughout the country."

Funded by an unrestricted educational grant from Eli Lilly & Co., In Our Own Voice: Living With Mental Illnesses currently operates in ten states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota, as well as local communities in New York, Oregon, and Texas. NAMI hopes to double the number over the next year.

In 2001, the program trained more than 100 individuals with mental illnesses to serve as presenters. Almost 500 presentations were made to approximately 8,000 community leaders. Audiences included Lions and Kiwanis Clubs, faith communities, legislators, police, doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, and students.

Presentations to other consumers, often made in hospitals, group homes, and day programs, help people with mental illnesses learn to cope with disorders and to begin reclaiming their lives. As presenters, consumers also receive an opportunity to regain self-confidence, self-esteem and some income while serving as role models in their communities. The program also serves as a gateway to other NAMI programs, including the organization's 12-week Family-to-Family curriculum.

"Too many times, people recovering from mental illness are confronted by stigma," Birkel said. "In Our Own Voice: Living With Mental Illness provides the kind of dialogue that can change minds, one person at a time. It is an important part of NAMI's vision for the future."