By now it is no surprise that I am passionate about my participation with NAMI and NAMI's mission statement "to provide emotional support, education, and resources for families affected by mental illness. Through community collaboration and education, NAMI advocates for a life of quality and dignity–one without discrimination–for all people affected by this illness."
After my three years of service that have included training for and teaching Family to Family, training for and teaching Parents and Teachers as Allies and Ending the Silence, raising funds for and participating in the NAMIWalk, submitting articles for the newsletter, and generally trying to support the organization every way I can, I decided to kick it up a notch. I applied to become a volunteer Board Member. I attended Tuesday night's monthly meeting as my membership application was on the agenda. About a dozen members of our NAMI family at large also attended the meeting. Unrelated to my application, they had concerns they wanted to address. This was excellent because addressing concerns and implementing changes are important ways an organization, any organization, grows stronger.
For the hour the members spoke, there were many excellent points raised. I wasn't yet a board member as my application hadn't been voted upon so I kept my mouth shut to listen and learn. Today, however, there is one comment out of the many valid comments made–about communication, transparency, and resource management–that I want to address. I know they all will be addressed by the board in the weeks and months to come as well. The board, for a variety of reasons, has been hindered by short-staffing for a while now, which is one reason I decided to join.
But one person in the room said she disagreed with board members being recruited from the "inside."
Here's the problem with "inside." It implies there's an outside. As far as I'm concerned, no such thing at NAMI exists. I have no idea what this person was implying by saying I'm an "insider." What would a NAMI insider look like exactly? I have no idea, and this person doesn't know me from Adam. We've never worked together, taught together or walked together. She doesn't know my story, why I decided to volunteer for NAMI or what NAMI brings to my life. Or, for that matter, what I bring to NAMI. She made an assumption without having information. We know how dangerous this can be. I see this lack of communication and curiosity as part and parcel of the larger issues and one I very much hope in the near future to help remedy.
More importantly, we, as members of an organization that strives to help families–help them help each other, help them help themselves, help them communicate, learn, grow, and most of all heal, I submit that we MUST stop using language of separatism. The separatism going on in our country is leading us in dangerous directions; we must not allow it to infiltrate our NAMI family. I am not an "insider." I am a mom whose daughter got diagnosed with mental illness. I felt alone. And responsible. I felt I had nowhere to turn and there was no one that could understand the struggles my family faced. Today I know this is the furthest thing from the truth, and I strive to share this truth every time I walk into a room and do a NAMI presentation or teach a class or talk to one who struggles as we did.
Please. Our time and resources are valuable. I have much to learn, and I'm honored to be part of NAMI in this way. Let's work together to make NAMI Ventura County the best affiliate it can be. I'm in. Are you?
Additionally, I'd like to share the excellent news that my friend Sue Schwartz's membership application was also voted upon and accepted. She's dedicated to raising NAMI's profile throughout our county. We're here to work for you and with you. Let's roll up our sleeves and get busy!