"NAMI Ending the Silence" is a national mental health education program for high school students, based on real-life experiences

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, December 2, 2013

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has launched a new national program to educate high school students about mental illness.

"NAMI Ending the Silence" features individuals and family members whose lives have been affected by mental illness, who visit high schools to provide "real-life" perspectives based on personal experiences.

Free 50-minute presentations are designed to complement health, science or psychology classes and are typically presented in the freshman or sophomore year of high school. Each trained presentation team includes a young adult in recovery.

Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience mental illness in any given year. About 50 percent of mental illness begins by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24.

"'NAMI Ending the Silence' will raise awareness about mental illness and promote dialogue. It will encourage students to take care of themselves and each other," said NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick.

"The program provides real faces and real-life stories that help high school students learn more effectively. Students get a rare opportunity to ask questions about mental illness that are too often surrounded by silence. "Ultimately, NAMI's goal is to help save lives."

Topics covered in presentations:

  • Signs and symptoms of mental illness.
  • Statistics on how mental illness affects youth.
  • Personal perspectives on the experience of living with mental illness.
  • Recovery and coping strategies.
  • Ways to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
  • How to help friends.

"NAMI Ending the Silence" was first developed by NAMI DuPage County (Ill.). In response to growing demand for the program from other NAMI Affiliates around the country, NAMI DuPage offered it to the national organization to become one of its signature education and support programs.

In Calif., Danny Gibbs, a young adult presenter has said: "'Ending the Silence' succeeds where so many other forms of outreach fail because of the genuine validity of our experience. Unlike many health teachers who work out of a book and have no personal context to draw on, we have lived expertise acquired through years of struggle."

About NAMI

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. http://www.nami.org/