Isolation, unemployment and loss of life are three symptoms of the coronavirus pandemic which have been brought to the forefront of the news cycle over the past 10 months, but one local organization is looking to help community members who may be suffering from mental health issues during this time — a pandemic of its own which they say has only grown worse in the wake of COVID.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness Stanislaus chapter is hosting a free Zoom webinar on Feb. 4 titled “In Our Own Voice,” a monthly presentation in which two trained speakers, along with a video, will share their compelling personal stories of living with mental health challenges and how they achieved recovery.
NAMI Stanislaus used to provide the presentations only to college classes, organizations and clubs, but in October began offering the webinars to the general public — each time seeing an increase in participants.
“What I find is it really tends to give individuals hope and encouragement that recovery is possible, whether they’re the person living with a mental health condition or a family member,” Darlene Thomas of NAMI Stanislaus said.
Speakers typically share what their life was like before recovery: their symptoms, thought processes, behaviors and more. Then, they go into detail about what they had to do to get to where they are today, how they plan to stay there and what their hope for the future is.
Thomas said that during the pandemic, NAMI Stanislaus has seen an increased interest in programs like their Family-to-Family program, a free, eight-week session for family, friends and significant others of those with mental health conditions, as well as other offerings. Some programs that were previously only offered twice a month are now offered weekly in order to keep up with demand, she added.
“(The pandemic) is really hard on people. They’re really struggling, especially if they’re living with a mental health condition themself,” Thomas said. “The isolation is hard on everyone. We don’t have the freedom we once did.”
In Our Own Voice aims to shatter negative stereotypes against people with mental illness by discussing the challenges people with major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and more deal with on a daily basis, both in and out of recovery. By talking about these issues as well as answering questions, Thomas said participants often leave webinars more optimistic than before.
Sometimes, all a person needs is support.
“It’s very helpful. It really gives them a lot of hope and encouragement,” Thomas said. “It shows them that no matter how far down someone was, look where they are now. Recovery is possible.”
NAMI offers a variety of support and education options for the community, including the In Our Own Voice presentations and the Family-to-Family program.
The next In Our Own Voice presentation will take place at 6 p.m. on Feb. 4 via Zoom, Meeting ID 815 0048 3795, password I00V. If you have questions or would like to book a presentation, call 209-672-5273 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.