Employee Spotlight: The Face of NAMI-NYC’s Helpline


Jessica Donada is NAMI-NYC’s Helpline Coordinator. On the Helpline, no two days are alike, but the message is a simple and resounding one–you are not alone. 

“When you call NAMI-NYC, you’ve tapped into a supportive community that understands what you’re going through. Whether you’re living with mental illness or trying to help a family member or friend, you don’t have to go through this alone,” Jessica explained. “Helpline callers are also relieved to receive information and resources tailored to their situation. It’s about connecting people to mental healthcare, but also teaching family members how to communicate with a loved one with mental illness and build trust in the relationship,” Jessica said. 

NAMI-NYC’s Helpline, available in English, Spanish, and 180 languages, helps New Yorkers navigate the NYC mental health system and get more information about related services. Callers often want to learn how to help family members who are nearing a crisis or have experienced hospitalization. “Our Helpline is not a crisis number, but we’re able to connect people to resources at critical moments. One mother was so concerned about her daughter that she decided to fly from Latin America to the U.S. in order to get help. Three days later, the mother came across NAMI-NYC. We were able to tell her about a mobile crisis unit and her daughter was on the road to recovery. No matter your language, income, or immigration status, there is assistance available.” All of NAMI-NYC’s programs and services are free.

Other Helpline callers are thinking about going to therapy for the first time and don’t know where to start. “Your insurance can send you a list of providers or you can search on Psychology Today. In many cases, you’re entitled to a free consultation in order to find a therapist who is a good match for you.” People can also call the Helpline if they’re interested in and want to learn more about NAMI-NYC’s programs, including our 30 support and social groups.

Jessica, who is an MSW and native Spanish speaker, coordinates a team of about 15 Helpline responders and engages with callers herself. “I’m grateful for our Helpline responders who have so much knowledge and compassion. Our responders come to us from various career paths and all have lived experience as either a peer or as a family member.”

Jessica also identifies as having that lived experience as a peer and family member. After having a positive experience with a school social worker growing up, Jessica started on that career path and later learned about NAMI after her mom attended a Basics class, which is for parents of children and teens struggling with their mental health. “NAMI-NYC is such an incredible place that values lived experience. As a social worker and a member of the NAMI-NYC team, I’ve become a trusted messenger in my family and in my community about mental illness. In the Latino community, mental health isn’t always talked about and I’m proud to be a part of this work and raise awareness.”  

If you’re unsure about reaching out, take that next step. “Just know that we are here to guide and support you. Everything you share on our Helpline is confidential. You don’t need to have everything figured out before you call–we can do that together,” Jessica said. 

If you or someone you care about would like to contact NAMI-NYC’s Helpline, call 212-684-3264 or email helpline@naminyc.org. For more information, visit our Helpline page (English/Español). Remember, our Helpline is not a crisis line. For emergencies, call 988.