NAMI Hosts Spring Fundraisers and Awareness Raises Mental Illness

Today we shed light on the prevalence of mental illness and how it affects the lives of patients, their families, friends and even employers. Each week on our blog we focus on a local small business or nonprofit and today we are helping to spread the word about NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mark your calendars for their upcoming local events!


Mental illness is more common than many people realize. In fact, one in five Americans has a mental health condition that needs treatment at some point in their lives, according to Sita Diehl, Director of State Outreach for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and former Tennessee state director from 2004 to 2010.

“Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with mental illness and people don’t talk about it. If we can learn more about mental illness and become an understanding neighbor, friend, family member or boss, that will help bring it out of the shadows,” Sita says.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots organization focused on individuals with mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD and anxiety. Fundraising is critical to ensuring the organization continues to provide much needed support and educational resources for those impacted by mental illness. The Davidson County branch of NAMI is hosting a benefit 5K April 8 at Shelby Park that will also feature live music and a village of vendors.

Another important fundraising event is NAMI Tennessee’s annual gala, which takes place May 2 at Hillwood Country Club. This year’s event honors Sen. Lamar Alexander, whom Sita calls a “marvelous champion for mental health.” Alyse Sprintz, co-founder of Sprintz Furniture, will also be recognized for her work to improve local mental health services. Organizers of the gala are currently seeking sponsors.

NAMI provides support, education and advocacy to build a better world for people who live with mental health conditions. The Davidson County chapter offers educational classes for family members of adults or kids who live with mental health conditions.

“People often find us too late in the process and typically after years of scrambling. Our members have learned through the school of hard knocks how to find the services and support and they offer a really sympathetic ear.”

Serious mental health issues strike in the early teen years and a robust body of research indicates that early identification and treatment is extremely beneficial. Sita notes that Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and in particular, Dr. Stephan Heckers are using leading edge methods to help young people with mental illness launch successfully into adulthood.

“If you are experiencing serious mental health issues, the sooner you seek help the better,” says Sita, whose son was diagnosed at age 6 and who is now pursuing his PhD in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin. “That is the future of mental health. Face it and then life can go on.”

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