From Kitchen Tables to National Voices
In the early 1970s, small groups of family members, nationwide, began to gather around kitchen tables searching for support and understanding of their mentally ill family member, more often than not, a son. The majority of those meeting together were moms blamed by the medical profession that their parenting skills caused their child’s schizophrenia or other mental health disorder.
NAMI was in the beginning and continues to be a volunteer-driven organization.
In the late 1970s, some of these families gathered together in Madison, WI and decided to form state associations. Within the next few years, the state organizations decided to form a national organization named NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. What started as a small group of families gathered around a kitchen table has blossomed into the nation's leading voice on mental health. Today, we are an alliance of more than 600 local Affiliates and 48 State Organizations who work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.
NAMI Geauga's History
NAMI Geauga’s humble beginnings would not have been possible without the support and encouragement from the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services, and the NAMI affiliate in Lake County, just to our north.
In 2006, these two organizations presented a NAMI program in Geauga County for the first time. The participants in that Family-to-Family class felt that Geauga could and should have its own NAMI affiliate. It was because of the determination and support of the Cisan family, the Sherman family and the Matthews family that in just over two years, NAMI Geauga was officially founded in 2009, and our first newsletter was published just a short time later.
In the beginning, NAMI Geauga met on the first Thursday of each month for our business meeting and support group. Then, on the third Thursday of each month we held an educational meeting with guest speakers who were doctors, pharmacists, safety officers and educators. In time, we had members trained to offer our own sessions of Family-to-Family, Peer-to-Peer and NAMI Basics.
By 2014, we had honed our meetings to include both peer support, and family and friends support. Over the next few years, we continued to grow and offer more resources. Our staff developed additional support groups including Growth through Grief- traumatic death bereavement support group. Staff have been trained to teach Mental Health First Aid (Youth and Adult) classes, and NAMI Geauga is able to offer community events like the Opioid Education & Prevention Seminar, and to host events such as a picnic and holiday dinner.
The firm foundation built by volunteers in 2009, has enabled our organization to thrive and grow. And today, we continue to adapt and seek new ways to reach our peers and families. From the beginning, NAMI Geauga has embodied our mission to offer mutual support and empowerment to persons and their families affected by mental illness through education, advocacy and emotional support.