What made you want to volunteer with NAMI Louisville?
I have a rich personal history with mental illness both within my life and my families. I believe that for me, truly living my recovery is important. Volunteering for NAMI was an integral step in forwarding my recovery. Since attending the support groups and being an active volunteer with the organization, I have been able to build connections in the community and shared powerful, impactful experiences with people who need connection, acceptance, validation and hope in their lives… myself included. I am so grateful to be a part of the NAMI family.
How often did you volunteer and in what areas?
I volunteered in the office at least once a week, supported two groups during the week, and frequently attended events where I would help run booths to spread awareness and resources in the community. Most often I would be found answering resource calls—being the first experience some have with NAMI and sometimes Behavioral Health in general, I was able to have a hand in guiding people to the right, most supportive resources within NAMI and the Louisville community. In working with NAMI, I have been able to help others reach out during a huge transition or crisis in their lives. I am incredibly grateful for these experiences. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to reach out in the first place and then further how disappointing and difficult the finding of resources can be. It’s hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable to anyone, let alone someone you have never met. I have a great respect for people who struggle with mental illness and their family members. I have been there. It’s a difficult place to be, especially when we live in a world where it’s not always okay to ask for help or where we don’t recognize Mental Illness as real issues that have a huge effect on people’s lives.
What did you enjoy most about your volunteer work?
I find it super rewarding. Working with people and being a part of building supportive, positive, hopeful connection in the community is really important. We live in a world where stigma and discrimination are major issues in our culture. Mental health is public health. Everyone has a brain and everyone has a personal psychology. It’s what makes us human. For those of us who struggle with mental illness—which I would argue is all of is to some extent or another—its very difficult to build connections and find support. It’s so hard to even admit to yourself you may need help. Being able to help provide that support and hope is so humbling and gratifying. I know how much its needed, even on the smallest of scales.
What do you do for fun? Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy nature. I go out hiking a lot and take photos of plants and animals I see on the trails. I also paint pretty frequently and do various other crafts like needle felting or sewing stuffed animals. I write too, poetry of course. I do yoga pretty often and occasionally trail run. I also volunteer for Bernheim Forest and another organization for mental health called DBSA.
When asked about NAMI Louisville and our services what do you tell people?
I let them know about the services offered and tell them a little bit about the feel of the group—the kind of community air that NAMI brings to the table and that the services are completely free! I also let them know about volunteer opportunities and facilitator trainings. A lot of people are receptive to that. The idea that you can use your suffering and what you are learning from it to help others grow through theirs is incredibly empowering to me and I think to others too.