June 24, 2016

By NAMI HelpLine

The NAMI HelpLine handles requests for information on mental health conditions, treatment options, local programs, recovery strategies, resource referral and support. Last year over 50,000 people contacted the HelpLine and received this essential service from NAMI staff, trained volunteers and interns.

You may reach the NAMI HelpLine by calling 800-950-6264, Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET, or by writing to [email protected].

The following letters show a sample of what type of support and information the HelpLine can provide.

Dear HelpLine,

I’m currently living in Idaho with my 21-year-old sister and our mom, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when we were kids. When our family lived in New Jersey, we went to support groups and neighborhood meet-ups all the time! But then my mom got a new job, and we moved to a rural county where our nearest NAMI is an hour away. How can we get involved with NAMI from our new home? — Jennifer W.


Hi, Jennifer,

Thank you for contacting NAMI. We understand how difficult it can be to find supportive communities, especially in rural areas. Hopefully we can offer some ways for you and your family to take part in NAMI’s grassroots movement wherever you are.

You might find support through NAMI’s online Discussion Groups. Accessible from our website, www.NAMI.org, these groups offer ongoing dialogue between participants so you can find support, share knowledge, ask questions and interact with people who have similar experiences. Participating is easy—just open a free myNAMI account to follow a Discussion Group or jump right into a conversation.

To access peer support on-the-go, engage with the NAMI AIR app. NAMI AIR is a free, mobile-based social network designed for individuals living with mental health conditions and their family members/caregivers. NAMI AIR is intended to provide another way for people to find and give support by connecting with others by smart phone. NAMI AIR encourages users to anonymously share their stories and receive feedback in the form of social interactions such as “like,” “hug” and “me too.” To get started, download NAMI AIR from the app store on your Android or Apple device.

You are more than welcome to submit to our blogs on Tumblr if you would like to share your story, or learn more about the experiences of the NAMI community:

1.   One of our blogs is for the general community: You Are Not Alone. If you would like to submit, you can post your story here. We occasionally feature You Are Not Alone stories on our homepage at www.NAMI.org.

2.   To share this information with an audience of teens and young adults, you can also explore our other Tumblr, OK2Talk. The goal of OK2Talk is to encourage teens and young adults to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing personal stories.

Our stigmafree campaign in partnership with philosophy’s hope & grace initiative is a call to action. By taking the pledge to be stigma-free, individuals, companies, organizations and campuses are making a commitment to help us create a culture that dismantles stigma and supports recovery.


The NAMI HelpLine

Dear HelpLine,

I am a member of my son’s school PTSA, and I’m looking for information on resources for students living with mental illness. We want to make parents and staff more aware of the warning signs, and teach our kids how to react if they or their friends need help. Ideally, we are looking for a presentation that may get the parents or teachers more interested in this subject. If you do anything like this or know of any presentations that are unique, could you please pass that info along? Thank you so much for your time. — Carole H.


Hi, Carole,

Thank you for contacting NAMI. It’s great that you’re hoping to share information about mental health through your PTSA! Although nearly 20% of youth experience a mental health condition, this population is often overlooked. Hopefully we can help you bring mental health awareness and education to your son’s school.

On our website, we offer statistics on mental health in children and teens, tips for learning to help your child and family and mental health materials for teens and young adults.

You may wish to explore NAMI Parents & Teachers as Allies. This presentation empowers teachers and school personnel to make a lasting difference in the lives of their students. This free, on-site presentation is led by a team in your community consisting of a young adult with a mental health condition, a parent and a teacher. Our 90-minute program will share how to: 

  1. Understand the difference between “bad behavior” and symptoms of a mental health condition.
  2. Recognize early warning signs.
  3. Communicate and partner with families effectively.
  4. Link to community services quickly.

We also offer a similar presentation that your school can organize as an assembly for students. NAMI Ending the Silence is a free classroom presentation where students get to see the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the 50-minute presentation, a young adult living with mental illness and a family member tell their stories about mental health challenges, including what hurt and what helped. NAMI Ending the Silence covers:

  1. Early warning signs
  2. Facts and statistics about youth and mental health conditions
  3. When, where and how to get help for themselves or their friends
  4. When it’s not OK to keep a secret

Many people benefit from NAMI Programs in their community. To learn more about resources in your area, you can contact your NAMI Local Affiliate or NAMI State Organization. Also ask your local NAMI about our free class for parents of children living with mental illness, NAMI Basics. To locate your nearest NAMI Affiliates, visit our website and click on the Find Your Local NAMI menu near the center of the page.

Also try reaching out to The National Association for Children's Behavioral Health (NACBH) at 202-857-9735. NACBH seeks to create responsive systems of care for children and families dealing with emotional and behavioral disturbances. They are multi-service agencies with roots in the mental health, child welfare, education and juvenile justice systems. You may locate your nearest affiliate online and find out more about their available services.


The NAMI HelpLine

Dear HelpLine,

Does NAMI offer counselors who see clients in the local office or elsewhere? My partner [has] severe depression and anxiety. She sees her psychiatrist for just 10 minutes each month and all he does is write more prescriptions with hardly any consultation, let alone therapy. My partner needs someone to discuss her experience in-depth. The few professionals in our area who are helpful don't take our insurance, which makes regular visits unaffordable. Do you have NAMI counselors on-hand who could evaluate and treat my partner? — Meagan L.


Hi, Meagan,

Here at NAMI, we are a grassroots organization staffed by trained volunteers. Although we have a personal connection to mental illness—as peers, family members and student interns—we are not qualified to offer treatment or medical advice. At the NAMI HelpLine, we provide general information, connections to resources and peer support from our own experience.

As your partner begins to revise her treatment plan, keep in mind that it can take some trial-and-error to find the right treatment team. Many patients find it helpful to form a treatment team with both a prescribing physician—such as a psychiatrist—and a counseling professional—such as a therapist.

Due to insurance costs and other factors, psychiatrists tend to offer more limited consultations and may only operate as a brief check-in to balance prescriptions. Many medications and treatment plans work best in conjunction with talk therapy. If you’d like to locate a talk therapist or other treatment professional, contact the following organizations for referrals in your area:

Many people find support groups to be a meaningful part of recovery. NAMI Connection Support Group is a free, peer-led support group for adults living with mental illness. These groups encourage empathy, productive discussion and a sense of community. Among other benefits, NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group will help your partner:

  1. Recognize that mental illnesses are medical illnesses that may have environmental triggers.
  2. Aim for better coping skills.
  3. Find strength in sharing experiences.
  4. Forgive themselves and reject guilt.
  5. Work for a better future in a realistic way.

If you’d like to enroll in one of NAMI’s signature programs, contact your NAMI Local Affiliate or NAMI State Organization. All of our groups are free to join, and you don’t need to be a member to attend. To locate your nearest NAMI Affiliates, visit our website and click on the Find Your local NAMI menu near the center of the page.


The NAMI HelpLine

Submit To The NAMI Blog

We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.


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).