Stories: Karen V.

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What Brought Karen to NAMI

Karen has a background in mental health—through both personal experience of dealing with  anxiety and depression, and a Masters in Counseling Psychology. She wanted to get into advocacy and knew that advocacy was one part of NAMI’s mission. “I’ve studied it and I’ve lived it. I came to help others…and I ended up getting help myself.”

“I see women here who are so overwhelmed by their kid’s illness. I had it too.” Karen’s younger daughter had struggled with depression during high school, and in 2014 her older daughter told her she was dealing with addiction. “Everything you think you know about your kid goes up in a puff of smoke.”

Karen came to NAMI thinking she would answer phones on the Helpline. But it was suggested she also take Family-to-Family. Even though Karen already had quite a bit of knowledge about mental health, she thought the class was great. And then the class coordinator asked her if she’d be interested in training to be a Family-to-Family teacher. She’s been a teacher for two years, a Family-to-Family Graduates Support Group co-facilitator, and she answers calls on the Helpline. She also recently became a teacher for Hope For Recovery, our newest class.

How NAMI Services Are Different From Others Karen Has Used

“The NAMI difference is that it’s peer to peer. There’s a back and forth dynamic that’s very empowering. There’s a lot of info that’s passed along. Practical info and emotional info…people are talking about their actual experiences.”

How NAMI Changed Karen’s Life

“NAMI helped me change how I communicate with my daughter. Be a little softer. See the person, not the disease. And this spills over into all of my relationships.

When you go through a major upheaval like an  addiction, it can lead to introspection. It’s all a learning and a growth process. Try to learn more about gratitude. You’ve been dealt a bad hand…but try to be hopeful.”

What’s It Like Walking  Through the Doors of NAMI?

“You know when you walk in, everyone has been through the same thing. No one will be judgmental, everyone will be supportive. If you come in and aren’t having a good day, it’s ok. Because everyone has been there. And if something really bad happens, everyone comes together around you and helps.

If I can tell someone, “You’re not alone”…it was a good day at NAMI.”

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