NAMI Delaware marks 40 years of advocacy
NAMI Delaware, the state’s grassroots leader on mental health issues, is marking its 40th anniversary this year with events and a special campaign to reduce stigma and increase awareness.
“This year, we look forward to meeting new challenges while celebrating what has changed,” said Dr. Joshua Thomas, NAMI Delaware CEO and executive director. “Delaware has had major policy successes in just the last few years, while continuing to grow services and programs for friends and family members in need. But more obstacles remain, including deep misunderstandings about mental illness and a widespread shortage of mental health professionals.”
Beginning Saturday, April 1, the 40 Days of Caring social media campaign will spread the message of support for people experiencing mental illness, their loved ones, and the NAMI volunteers who are the core of the organization. The campaign will be identified with the hashtag #40daysofcaringDE.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Delaware chapter began with a small group of families gathered in a Wilmington church in the spring of 1983. Founders Jill and Simon Shute, parents of a son experiencing mental illness, had no idea that the seeds they sowed would be growing strong 40 years later.
“NAMI has helped support countless family members and caregivers as they help their loved ones along their journeys,” said Jill Shute. “We could not have imagined the community that has grown here and the compassion that NAMI spreads every day.”
NAMI Delaware was named the Outstanding NAMI State Organization in 2022 in recognition of its work in outreach, advocacy, and education. A 15-member staff and dedicated corps of volunteers serves the entire state, with thousands of clients and support group participants.
The chapter runs educational programs, shapes public policy, advocates on behalf of Delawareans, offers support through the toll-free Helpline, and works to raise awareness, fight stigma, and encourage understanding. Unique among state NAMI chapters, it operates a network of permanent and transitional housing for people experiencing chronic mental illness.
Among its recent accomplishments, NAMI Delaware has: Advocated for new laws that will improve mental health access for students in K-12 schools; created a new response framework independent of law enforcement to help people in crisis; trained more than 600 Delaware police officers in de-escalation skills; created new initiatives such as a client-supporting program at the Delaware Psychiatric Center; and added staff to support under-served communities as part of its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
NAMIWalks Delaware, an awareness and walk fundraiser set for Saturday, May 13, at Bellevue State Park, stepping off at 9:30 a.m. The event aims to raise $120,000 for NAMI Delaware’s work. To organize a team, register or donate, go to namiwalks.org/delaware.
The Inspiring Hope Conference set for Thursday, Oct. 5, in Clayton Hall at the University of Delaware.
For more information, go to NAMIDelaware.org. The Helpline, a resource and referral line, is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, at 888-427-2643 or en español at 302-415-4356. Anyone experiencing a crisis can text 741-741 or call 988.