The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a grass roots mental health organization where professionals team with people who are living with mental illness — either personally, or with someone they care about. Laura O’Neill heads NAMI for Western Nevada and spoke at this month’s Community Breakfast in Winnemucca.
O’Neill said NAMI of Western Nevada started out in western Nevada. As the organization started getting calls further out into northern Nevada, the effort has been made to partner with volunteers and bring NAMI’s education opportunities, services and support further out this way.
O’Neill talked specifically about a program that is new to NAMI. NAMI of Western Nevada has been awarded a contract for a program called the “Warm Line.”
The Warm Line would offer help by phone to connect individuals and their families to mental health services. Right now, Warm Line pilot programs are being set up in Douglas County, Carson City, and Elko. However, O’Neill said NAMI is looking for another frontier community whose residents are interested in having the Warm Line set up in their area. She said she would be meeting with social service organizations in Winnemucca to explore the idea further.
Referrals to the “Warm Line” can come through law enforcement, the jail and social services in a community. She explained that when someone’s name is referred, help can then be offered in the form of an outbound call to that person.
The “Warm Line” is a free and confidential telephone service providing emotional support and resources to those who are experiencing mental health concerns either personally or with a family member or friend. It is manned by people who have personal experience with mental illness, who are prepared to offer support. O’Neill noted that the Warm Line can be especially valuable to offer support on weekends and after-hours, when other resources are less available.
“It would start as an outbound line — but then would become an inbound line too,” O’Neill explained. “When people learn of a number they can call for help and support, they will call back.”
O’Neill said NAMI very much wants feedback regarding extension of the Warm Line program to the Humboldt County area.
O’Neill also touched on other training and support services offered by NAMI. She said NAMI will be offering training in northern Nevada on basic mental health issues. NAMI offers a wide variety of programs and training. The costs of the training are covered by grants, so it is free of charge to participants.
O’Neill also introduced three Winnemucca community volunteers who are working with NAMI on building services and support locally. Two of the volunteers, Pastor Judy Robbins of the Winnemucca United Methodist Church and local resident Pam Gubka have both dealt with mental health issues with their children.
Robbins and Gubka have taken NAMI training that has helped them better understand how to deal with the issues they have faced with their children. The training will also help them to offer support to others facing similar challenges.
“This course gave me the feeling of not being alone any more,” said Gubka.
Gubka and Robbins have started a family connections support group. They invited anyone who has a family member or other loved one who struggles with mental illness to come. They meet every Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, 138 West Winnemucca Boulevard.
Humboldt County area veterans representative Skip Becker is the third Winnemucca volunteer who has taken the NAMI Basics training. He said it gave him continuing support for PTSD issues he has lived with for years. He said the training will also help him assist veterans who are facing mental health challenges.
“Veterans often have problems admitting they need help, but everyone needs someone to be their rock,” Becker said. He urged any veterans who have PTSD or suffer from other mental health issues to contact him, saying, “There are people who have been through the same things you have been; we’re here to help out.” Becker can be reached at 625-1042.
All NAMI programs are offered free of cost and stipends are even available to help people who might need assistance with money for gas or other costs to attend trainings, O’Neill said.
“We have a host of other programs and we’re looking at how to build up NAMI support in communities,” she added. “A tele-support group meets twice a month, which allows people to call in to participate in a video conference support group. We want it to be a rural support group.”
More information about NAMI, including contact information is available on-line at www.nami.org.