NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Lansing is a United Way affiliate and the Tri-county’s Voice on mental illness — dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families who are affected by neurobiological brain disorders through support, education, advocacy and research. The volunteers of NAMI Lansing work to provide people with resources and a sense of hope. “When families have a member with an illness they are faced with multiple layers of stress and trauma,” said Margaret Keeler, Board President at NAMI Lansing. “These families have to learn about medications, housing options, re-managing finances and a medical system that is often times inadequate. It’s overwhelming; that’s why NAMI exists.” Mental Illness Awareness Week was last month between the days of Oct. 7 to 13. It was established in 1990 by the US Congress, recognizing NAMI for its efforts to educate and increase awareness about mental illness. “This week is set aside to acknowledge the needs of those with mental illness,” says Keeler. “Mental illness often times gets swept under the rug. It isn’t viewed in the same light as physical illness and isn’t covered by insurance companies. We continue to advocate for equal access and treatment. When people struggle with mental illness — trying to recover, it’s important for them to find a community of friends in support. Funding and resources are necessary for this to happen.” It takes much more than one week of awareness to change how people perceive mental illness, though. It is done by engaging the community — including those who haven’t been affected by mental illness —365 days a year. Keeler continues, “We have a wide range of programs and groups that meet with one another. Some are directed towards patients, others for family members who care for them and some for people who know absolutely nothing about mental illness.” Community is built through knowledge. Once those who are affect by mental illness — patients and their loved ones — realize they are not alone; they develop strength and can rally around one another. And once unaffected people have a clearer understanding of the issues, they realize what mental illness actually is— an illness just like any other. For more information visit www.nami-lansing.org.