National Alliance On Mental Illness

NAMI works to keep family safety nets in place, to promote recovery and to reduce the burden on an overwhelmed mental health care delivery system.

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$28M

Annual Revenue

83%

Program Expenses

1%

CEO Compensation

Advocacy

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Awareness

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Direct Service

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Policy Legislation

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Research

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About the National Alliance on Mental Illness

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (previously the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) was founded in 1979 by two women who were unhappy with the availability of services and treatments for their sons who had schizophrenia. NAMI’s work focuses on four areas: education, advocacy, support, and generating awareness. They provide educational programs and resources to families, individuals, and educators, they influence national public policy, provide a free helpline for those seeking mental health referrals and support, and fight the stigma against mental illness.

NAMI has nearly 1,000 state and local affiliates across the country, with programs and support varying location to location.


Why We Chose to Feature This Organization

NAMI’s work in fighting mental health stigma and shaping public policy is immensely important. People with serious mental illness must deal with both the symptoms of their disease and the negative stereotypes, misconceptions, and prejudice in society surrounding their condition. Stigma surrounding mental illness results in three general misconceptions: that people with severe mental illness should be feared, that they are irresponsible, and that they are childlike and need caring for. None of these are true. Despite the media blaming gunmen and terrorists’ behavior on mental illness, people with mental illness are no more violent than the general population. In fact, they are 10x more likely to experience violence against themselves than those who are neuro-typical. People do not want to unfairly be thought of as violent, irresponsible, or incapable, so oftentimes they forgo treatment in order to avoid being unjustly treated by society. Most mental illnesses can be successfully managed under proper care, if only people had fair and affordable access to treatment, support, and didn’t have to fear stigmatization from society, their employers, and their family and friends.

NAMI helps fight the stigmatization of mental illness by generating awareness of how prevalent they are in society, educating people and dispelling myths, and encouraging employers and lawmakers to implement policies that improve the lives of those with mental illness by improving access to health care and treatment and creating stigma-free workplaces.

Awareness

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Private Sector Collaboration

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Management

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NAMI Walks

Like many other health-focused organizations, NAMI hosts walkathons to raise awareness and funds for local affiliates across the United States. The walk is a 5k, and in 2018, it is estimated that more than 50,000 people in over 85 communities will participate. As of April 2018, nearly $4 million had been raised.

On namiwalks.org, interested participants can search for nearby walks. Each walk has its own webpage that shows the location of the event, contact information, the current number of participants, their fundraising goal, and how much they’ve earned so far. There is no registration fee, instead, participants are encouraged to build teams and work together to raise funds.

When a participant registers for the walk, a customizable webpage is automatically created. This webpage allows for walkers to tell a little about themselves and why they’re participating. It also accepts online donations and tracks fundraising progress. The website is saved so that walkers who participate in future events will have access to the information that they already provided. In addition to the website, NAMI provides fundraising manuals for team captains and participants. These guides give tips on how to draft a simple fundraising plan, how to initiate online fundraising, how to write a fundraising letter or email, and tips on how to approach family, friends, and colleagues regarding participation. Sample letters are also provided.

StigmaFree Campaign & StigmaFree Companies

During National Mental Health Month (May) of 2015, popular beauty brand philosophy and NAMI partnered together to launch StigmaFree, a national campaign focused on fighting mental health stigma.

Stigma is a large barrier that keeps people from accessing mental health care. Despite 1 in 5 Americans being affected by mental illness, most people hold negative attitudes or believe false stereotypes about those with mental illness. People with mental illness are often labeled as “crazy” or “dangerous”, which can in turn lead to isolation, unfair blame, and a life in secrecy. Mental health conditions can often be successfully treated, but less than half of adults in the U.S. who need such treatments receive them, in part due to fear of being stigmatized.

One of the best ways to reduce stigma is to increase awareness about mental illness, remove barriers to treatment, and create environments that enable effective care and support. This is especially true in the workforce, where untreated mental health conditions cause up to $200 billion in lost earnings through decreased work performance and productivity. Most people with mental illness want to work, but they need an environment that properly supports them.

Companies who make the StigmaFree pledge promise to learn the facts regarding mental health, provide and promote stigma-free workplaces, accept and support employees with mental health conditions, and encourage employees to receive treatment by providing health and wellness programs, flexible work schedules, and information about mental health resources.  

NAMI provides StigmaFree companies with numerous resources and tools to help them achieve these goals. The guides are brief but informative and are available for both employers and employees. Topics include how to promote a supportive culture in the workplace, how to approach your employer about mental health insurance benefits and policies, how to create a stigma-free workplace, and how to create a healthy workplace that provides sufficient accommodations for those with special needs. These guides also explain what to avoid, such as common phrases like “she’s bipolar” and offers alternatives such as “she has bipolar disorder”. These seemingly small comments and actions can have a huge effect on the stigmatization of mental illness, so it is important that managers and supervisors are conscious of their phrasing.

Other companies who have taken the pledge include EY, Fox Sports, Kenneth Cole, and Tumblr. The pledge is mutually beneficial for NAMI and participating companies. NAMI and participating companies develop fundraising campaigns and co-branded merchandise while enjoying an increased audience, brand awareness, and impact. Win-win partnerships between the private sector and charitable organizations are an effective way of changing perceptions and promoting beneficial policies.

Road to Recovery

In this report, NAMI explains the reasons why those with mental illness have lower employment rates than the general population, what vocational programs are offered and successful at helping improve employment rates, and policy recommendations for improving both.

Most people prefer earning an income to relying on government assistance, and people with mental illness are no different. Despite a strong desire to work, people with mental illness face many barriers to employment. These barriers have resulted in a recent decline of employment rates for people with mental illnesses. In fact, people who are served by public mental health systems have an unemployment rate that is three times that of the general population.

Providing accommodations and support for mental illnesses are low cost and easy to implement, yet negative stereotypes and perceptions regarding mental illnesses persist in the workplace. Many people do not disclose their mental illness out of fear that they won’t be hired or promoted.

Our current benefit system is also a barrier to employment, and many individuals find themselves in a cycle of employment, benefit loss, and unemployment. When an individual who receives SSI or SSDI begins working they are at risk of losing their benefits. The mental health benefits provided by employers are often non-existent or severely lacking. Losing access to treatment can result in an individual resigning or losing their job, and they find themselves unemployed again.

Vocational rehabilitation programs exist to help people with mental illnesses gain employment, however, the majority of the programs need improvement. For starters, there aren’t enough: Of those served by state mental health systems, only 1.7% received supported employment services in 2012. The programs themselves need improving as well. These programs often take a “train and place” approach instead of the far more successful “place and train” approach. Assistance is generally provided on a limited time basis, despite evidence that those with mental illness may need long-term or intermittent help.

For a vocational program to be successful, it needs to be inclusive (anyone who wants to participate can), quick, and focused on the individual’s employment preferences. Employment should be integrated into treatment plans and other mental health services, and individualized long-term support should be available.

Two proven effective models are Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment and Clubhouses. In the IPS model, employment services are customized to match an individual’s needs and preferences toward employment. Jobs that are sought are not intended for disabled persons, rather they are competitive jobs that pay above the minimum wage. Employment services are integrated into their treatment plan, and there is no time-limit regarding how long they receive support (support can be continued after an individual finds a job). Benefits counseling is available to help individuals understand how employment will affect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Disability Income payments. Economic support is offered while individuals transition to employment.

A Clubhouse is a community-based center that offers a selection of employment programs for individuals with mental illnesses. They include the IPS employment model as well as transitional employment programs and independent employment programs. In the transitional employment program, members work for the community for a limited about of time. In the independent employment programs, members receive resume preparation assistance, job interview coaching, and support during employment.

In order to improve employment rates and retention in people with mental illness, NAMI lists the following policy recommendations:

  • Enact state legislation to increase access to effective supported employment such as IPS Supported Employment and Clubhouse models.
  • Develop adequate, long-term financing mechanisms to implement evidence-based supported employment programs
  • Ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Build a bridge to economic self-sufficiency by allocating funds to support transition services for Medicaid enrollees who gain employment and enroll in private health coverage
  • Make it easier for employers to hire and support workers who live with mental illness by helping employers navigate rules and resources pertaining to hiring people with disabilities, as well as providing financial incentives to do so (e.g. payroll tax credits)
  • Bring rapid placement vocational programs to scale for veterans with mental illness
  • Make age-appropriate supported education and employment services available to young adults with mental health conditions
  • Improve data on employment and mental illness

Management

National Alliance On Mental Illness

Mary Giliberti

Chief Executive Officer

Experience and Education
  • Disability Counsel for the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee

  • Juris Doctorate in Law from Yale Law School

  • Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Harvard University

Compensation
$198,000

National Alliance On Mental Illness

Cheri Villa

Chief Financial Officer

Experience and Education
  • President and CEO of S.E.R.V.E

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration and Comparative Politics from George Mason University

  • Master of Political Science and Government, Graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University

Compensation
$156,000

National Alliance On Mental Illness

Chuck Harman

Chief Development Officer

Experience and Education
  • Director of Communications at NAMI

  • Health Care Executive Education and Leadership Program for Non-Profit Healthcare Executives from the Wharton School

  • Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Journalism from West Virginia University

Compensation
$148,500

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