For National Criminal Justice Month, NAMI Launches “Overlooked” Campaign Highlighting Stories Of Mental Illness And The Criminal Justice System

Mar 1, 2024

During National Criminal Justice Month, NAMI is launching a new campaign, Overlooked: Stories of Mental Illness & the Criminal Justice System, centered on the experiences of people with mental illness during their time in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, people with mental illness are overrepresented in our nation’s jails and prisons.

About 2 million times each year, people with mental illness are booked into jails — often for reasons related to the symptoms of their untreated illness. NAMI believes that people with mental illness deserve help, not handcuffs. Jails and prisons are not built, financed or structured to provide adequate mental health services, and far too many people don’t receive the care they need while incarcerated, causing symptoms to worsen and resulting in negative health outcomes when reentering the community.

Overlooked is NAMI’s latest effort to highlight the impact of the criminal justice system on people with mental illness through personal stories from the people who lived this experience. By prominently featuring first-person stories from advocates across the county, this campaign will help people understand the experiences people with mental illness face, while raising awareness and advocating for equitable treatment and support rather than discrimination and criminalization.

NAMI’s advocacy is driven by the stories we hear every day throughout the NAMI Alliance — stories from people with mental illness and family members about their experiences with the criminal justice system. While mental health advocates know these experiences, far too many people in the U.S. do not.

Learn more about the campaign, hear stories of people’s experiences with the criminal justice system, share your personal story and get involved to create systems change at

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).