NAMI Wisconsin's Visit to the Wisconsin State Capitol

Just a couple of weeks ago, many NAMI Wisconsin staff members had the opportunity to visit the Wisconsin State Capitol on behalf of our organization and the work we do. In an effort to share our 2017-2018 policy priorities, we hand-delivered folders to each legislator in the Capitol. These folders were packed with important information, such as relevant fact sheets, a quick guide to Wisconsin’s mental health resources, and brochures about our programs and services around the state.

As we started to deliver the folders to each legislator, we were greeted warmly while being invited into offices to talk more about the common barriers those with mental illness face on a daily basis. Many legislative staffers thanked us and told us they genuinely appreciated the information on how to better support individuals who face these extreme challenges in their everyday lives.

We continually find that is difficult to gauge how comfortable people are when discussing mental illness. This situation was no exception. However, the visit to the Wisconsin State Capitol was a powerful chance for us to break down that stigma piece-by-piece with important policymakers, while also sharing our passion for the work NAMI does.

Thank you to everyone who supports NAMI in the ways you are able to. Whether your efforts include giving financially, reading our Iris newsletters, following our latest Action Alerts, or courageously sharing your personal story, please know that you are making a huge difference. Advocacy is not a one person job and we certainly could not what we do without you. You are all important advocates to us.

We all had a blast while sharing NAMI Wisconsin’s work with our senators and representatives. We hope they continue to see us a resource and a partner in improving the quality of life for people affected by mental illness.

Written by Leah Rolando, MSW Intern at NAMI Wisconsin

Time to Embrace Your Happy

It’s overwhelming to think that the first month of 2017 is already coming to an end.

Like most of us, I had so many positive resolutions set for myself. Unlike previous years, I have accomplished many of them, such as eating healthier and even signed up for that half-marathon I have always wanted to conquer.

One resolution that continues to overwhelm me is to be happier.

I consider myself a happy person. I have many loving family members, a group of friends to share laughs with, a supportive group of co-workers, and last but not least, the cutest dog in the world.

However, I feel like I can do so much more to live a fuller life. We all can do so much more.

There are so many activities that I know would make me happy, but I just never seem to make time to meet those goals. Some of these activities include:

  • Explore more Wisconsin State Parks
  • Read a new series of books
  • Expand my music selection
  • Take a cooking class
  • Learn a new art
  • Volunteer at a local organization
  • Write and journal more often

… The list goes on and on. If I absolutely know that these activities will make me happy, why don’t I just make time to do them?

I’m sure I’m not alone. As humans, we often get so obsessed with our daily/weekly/monthly to-do lists that we forget to slow down and do the things that we enjoy the most.

For the rest of 2017, I will make time to embrace my happy. I will set aside time specifically to do things that make me happy. In theory, this should make me more productive and all-around satisfied. I will embrace my happy one day at a time.

How will you make time to embrace your happy this year? What are some things that allow you to embrace your happy? We want to hear all about them at NAMI Wisconsin!

Using the hashtag #EmbraceYourHappy show us some things that you do that lead to a fuller life. 

PS- NAMI Wisconsin is selling #EmbraceYourHappy t-shirt to spread the joy! To purchase a NAMI Wisconsin Embrace Your Happy t-shirt, please click here.

Written by Jamie Gurgul, Public Relations and Events Coordinator

NAMI Wisconsin's 2017-2018 Legislative Priorities

You spoke and we listened!

A few months ago you took action and weighed in on what matters most in the mental health system. Your survey responses helped sharpen our advocacy focus and shape our key legislative priorities for the upcoming session.

At the forefront of our advocacy is the recognition that stigma and discrimination directly affect people with mental illness and their families. NAMI Wisconsin asserts a conscious effort to reduce stigma and discrimination in all areas of policy including healthcare, employment, housing and education. So.. without further ado, here are NAMI Wisconsin’s 2017 Legislative Priorities.

1. Provide access to affordable mental health treatment services

  • Ensure access to affordable health insurance that covers mental health services at the same rate as other physical illnesses.
  • Deliver community-based services that are easily accessible by local transit.
  • Accept federal funds for Medicaid in order to cover more people with mental health conditions currently not receiving services.
  • Increase Medicaid reimbursement rates so providers can afford to deliver services to those who need it.

2. Prevent people from entering and returning to jail and prison

  • Expand community mental health services so law enforcement are not the first point of contact to access treatment.
  • Support Crisis Invention Team (CIT), Crisis Intervention Partner (CIP), and de-escalation programs for first respond- ers to ensure effective response to mental health crises.
  • Invest in Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) programs, especially for low risk offenders.

3. Support youth mental health initiatives

  • Promote early identification and intervention for children and youth with mental health conditions.
  • Expand First Episode Psychosis (FEP) programs to reach more youth statewide.
  • Invest in school-based mental health initiatives that allow children and youth to access treatment, increase awareness and expand mental health education within the school community

4. Promote avenues to recovery in the community through employment, peer services

  • Increase the investment in Individualized Placement and Support (IPS), an evidence-based model of supported employment, by providing funding for additional state trainers.
  • Maintain the investment in the peer specialist workforce.
  • Ensure access to community-based services such as the Community Support Program (CSP) and Comprehensive Community Services (CCS).

There will be many opportunities for you to get involved in these important mental health issues. For more information, please contact Advocacy Coordinator, Crystal, at

Taking Care of Yourself in 2017

There is a lot of pressure right now for newness, transformation, and starting over. Some of you may feel overwhelmed by this push to be hopeful. Maybe you’re thinking, “What if I actually don’t feel hopeful?”, “What if I relapse again?”, “What if I don’t make it through 2017?” All of those concerns are valid and not uncommon. Here are some ideas about how to look out for and be kind to yourself in this upcoming New Year:

Strengthen or build your support system. People need other people. Although “self-care” implies that taking care of oneself is an individual responsibility, we were never meant to do life alone. Think about how you are able to best connect with others. Can you write letters? Call a hotline or a warm line for support? Create and exchange art? Share posts and messages with others on social media? Schedule a friend reunion? Set coffee dates with new acquaintances? Sometimes a support system can be one person or resource, sometimes it’s twenty. This looks different for everyone and that’s okay.

Limit your mindless social media intake. In a world where you can “Ask Siri” or “OK google” any information into your hands in a matter of seconds it can be hard to leave our devices alone. We scroll and click to know what’s happening and we want to offer our perspective on it. Many of us want to know how to help, so just writing off the Internet as just a distraction is a little too simple. Pay attention to how often you utilize your technology devices and for what reason. It can be easy to get sucked into something that can negatively affect your mental health without realizing it. One moment you’re laughing at a cute cat video and the next you’re reading an article headline related to a traumatic event you may have personally experienced. You cannot always be prepared to engage with the material you come across so it’s important to know your limits when it comes to consuming the news.

Be aware of what your body is telling you. Are you getting enough sleep? What are your eating habits like? If you’re able to exercise, are you doing so? Often times our bodies can tell us something is off way before our minds catch on. Be sure to plan your days with all of your physical and mental needs in mind. It can be easy to forget!

With so much uncertainty about how you will lead your life in today’s ever changing contexts it is difficult to be optimistic about what comes next. You do have a choice, though; you can either react or respond to the changes. Paying attention to how you are feeling and what you need to keep going is so important. It matters how you spend your time and how you look after yourself. Continue to live boldly while being patient with yourself as you strive to always do better.

Take care, and welcome to 2017. 

Written by Leah Rolando, MSW Intern. 

The Holiday Blues

If you Google “how to beat the holiday blues” you will stumble upon hundreds of “quick and simple steps” to get over these said blues. I am apprehensive about how quick and simple these steps are in reality for many of us who may struggle with a mental health condition.

Anyone who lives with mental illness could probably tell you how time consuming and difficult the symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar, or another condition are. For many, these symptoms may be amplified during the holidays and look like headaches, insomnia, intense sadness, severe family conflict, and a range of other things. Even if you are not diagnosed with a mental illness your experiences with these symptoms are still valid. The fact that we cannot always “beat” this pain in a couple quick and simple steps is a hard truth to hold.

But what is also true is hope. Hope says that there are people who love you and support you no matter how bad you feel. Hope asserts that you can and will make it through the holidays, one day at a time. Hope is real and help is out there.

Don’t let oversimplified tips on how to feel better overwhelm you this season. If you’re helping a friend or a family member through this, sit with them in the heaviness of what they’re experiencing. Walk with them through the dark they’re in. That in itself is so powerful, especially during a time when there is an enormous amount of pressure for everything to be light and joyful.

When you’re ready, take some steps towards taking care of yourself. If you are a friend or family member of someone experiencing the blues take note of these points. In a national survey on the “holiday blues”, 64% of people say they are affected and 24% of people say the holidays affect them a lot. You are not alone in this and you are definitely not alone in seeking help. Some self-care ideas can include:

  • Acknowledging your feelings; realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief sometimes

  • Getting enough sleep at night

  • Spending quality time with the people who care about you the most

  • Eating and drinking in moderation

  • Even if it’s cold, getting outside and taking a walk! The sun still comes up in the winter!

  • Making a to-do list so you don’t become overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you have

  • Listening to your favorite music

  • Doing what feels good for you and helps you relax

  • Seeking professional help if you need it; if you feel these blues are more than just blues be sure to reach out for help.

Remember, it’s okay to feel down during the holidays. You don’t have to fake it. Take care of yourself and hold onto the possibility that things can get better. Find the help you need. Have hope.

Written by Leah Rolando, MSW Intern, NAMI Wisconsin

Six Celebrities Who Have Opened Up About Their Mental Illness

One of the best ways to help break down the stigma associated with mental health is to talk openly and honestly about our own mental health conditions. For many people, this means opening up to our friends and family. For some people, however, this means opening up to thousands of fans and followers. Here are six celebrities who have shared about their experiences of living with a mental illness.

 1. JK Rowling - The heralded author of Harry Potter, JK Rowling, hasn’t held back in talking about her depression while writing her famous book series. She even says that the inspiration for the book’s “dementors” were drawn from her own battles with depression.



2. Kid Cudi - Popular rapper, Kid Cudi, opened up on Facebook about checking into a mental health rehabilitation center for depression and suicidal urges. His candid post sparked a trend on Twitter (#YouGoodMan) where black men shared their own struggles with mental health.



3. Demi Lovato - Singer/Actress Demi Lovato was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder back in 2010. In talking about it now, she says, "I was dealing with bipolar depression and didn't know what was wrong with me. Little did I know, there was a chemical imbalance in my brain. Because I didn't tell people what I need, I ended up self-medicating and coping with very unhealthy behaviors."


4. Herschel Walker - Heisman Trophy winner, NFL running back, Olympian, and now a mental health advocate, Herschel Walker has written a book about titled “Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder”.



5. Catherine Zeta-Jones - After seeking out treatment for Bipolar Disorder back in 2011, Catherine Zeta-Jones has been vocal about breaking down the stigma. She is quoted as saying, “There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.”


6. Howie Mandel - As a comedian and TV Host, Howie Mandel has been vocal about living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He says, “We take care of our dental health. We don’t take care of our mental health. I think the solution to making this world better is if we would just be healthy, mentally.”




Written by Nate Schorr, Associate Director, NAMI Wisconsin

2017 Policy Priorities Survey-- We Need Your Input!


Dear NAMI Wisconsin Supporters... We Need Your Input! 

Currently, NAMI Wisconsin advocates on the state level for wide-ranging issues. In choosing key legislative priorities for the upcoming session, we need your input. NAMI is a grassroots organization and we want to reflect your views.

The link below lists 10 advocacy issues. We hope to choose 4-5 priorities among this list to focus our advocacy efforts in 2017. These 10 issues were chosen for several reasons:

  1. Many are related to investments or commitments that Governor Walker and the Legislature made that we want to make sure are carried out successfully.
  2. Many are long-standing NAMI Wisconsin advocacy issues that our members continually prioritize.
  3.  The NAMI Wisconsin Public Policy and Advocacy Committee has focused on some of these issues in their work.

In order to gain a general sense of your priorities, we ask you to rank the issues. When ranking these issues, keep in mind that "N/A" is a possible choice. If you would prefer to rank only a couple of issues, feel free to mark the others "N/A" and only rank your top priorities.

To take the 2017 policy priorities survey, please visit:

For more information on these issues, please visit:

Note: Paper and electronic responses will be collected until Thursday, December 1, 2016. 

Countdown to Election Day!

Regardless of how much you know or don’t know about the current state of politics in our country, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless during these weeks leading up to the coming presidential election. Fierce debates, the official presidential ones and the ones that play out on social media fought by strangers behind screens, have helped create an uncomfortable tension that can be felt by everyone here in America and abroad. Sometimes it makes me afraid to ask questions. Other times it makes me want to retreat to somewhere where politics don’t matter.

But politics do matter. This election matters because it affects me, my friends, my family, and people I’ve never even met.

Politics matter because people matter.

Here are some questions to answer to make sure you’re ready to use your vote as your voice and #Act4MentalHealth (

Are you registered to vote? Do you know where your polling place is? Do you have a time and date scheduled in your personal calendar to vote? Remember, you can vote early if you know the dates and times of the polling location of your choice. Otherwise, polls are open from 7am-8pm on Tuesday, November 8th, General Election Day, in Wisconsin. (If you have a disability and are experiencing any accessibility problems on Election Day, call the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition's toll free hotline: 1-800-928-8778) Do you know who you are voting for? Do they support who and what you care about? (Go to: for more how-to voting information)

I care about a lot. It’s sometimes difficult to prioritize what needs attention when there is so much healing to do in this broken mental health care system, but being a part of a community that understands and cares about the things that I do makes it simpler. NAMI has put together a list of our national community’s top concerns when it comes to mental illness. Check it out below:

NAMI's 2016 Legislative Priorities
Increase the availability of quality mental health care

Promote early identification and intervention

Reduce criminalization

Enforce mental health insurance parity

Support mental health caregivers

Do our candidates care about these priorities? Do they have a well thought-out platform that addresses mental health and supports people with mental illnesses in the U.S.? Have they spoken about mental health publicly, and, if so, how do say they plan to support people with lived experiences? If you don’t know, that’s okay! All it takes is a Google search to find the answers. (Just make sure you get your information from credible sources and not opinion pieces.)

It is our responsibility to do what we can to affect politics because, at a very basic level, it is right to care about people. It is right to ensure that those in elected offices care about people, as well. Please understand that you matter even when you feel powerless. Your vote has power, and, I promise you, your vote matters. Do the right thing. 

Written by Leah Rolando, MSW Intern, NAMI Wisconsin

5 Ways You Can End Halloween Stigma Against Mental Illness

Halloween is RIGHT around the corner! For many people—Halloween means spooky haunted houses, beautifully carved pumpkins, and intricate homemade costumes. For many people affected by mental illness—Halloween means fear and increased amounts of stigma.

There are many companies, such as amusement parks and haunted houses that have been creating “haunted asylums” for the Halloween season. Additionally, many Halloween costume stores sell hurtful and insensitive costumes, such as straightjackets. This is extremely stigmatizing towards people with mental illness. We need YOU to help us end these stigmatizing activities in your local communities!

If you see something stigmatizing in your community, here are some quick and easy ways to put an end to it:

1.      Contact the company!
Just start with a nice, polite dialogue! Some people might be unaware that this is stigma-causing, so educate them. Politely ask them to remove the offensive parts of the attraction or merchandise that mock mental illness.

2.      Alert other NAMI members!
If attempts at a polite conversation are unsuccessful, alert other NAMI members, family, or friends. Ask them to phone, send letters, or email the companies!

3.      Contact your local media
Educate your local media about the “Halloween-stigma” and their concerns. If they have promotional stories about a haunted asylum, ask them to also run a story about the protest and individuals living with mental illness.

4.      Make the protest a “news event”.
This can be a great teaching moment for a lot of your community’s figures! Offer individuals or family members who have been affected by mental illness for personal interviews.

5.      Be flexible
Keep in mind, some companies cannot make changes immediately but might agree to do so in the future. Be persistent and be polite. Remember that your hard work will eventually pay off!

Be prepared for some backlash. Many people in a community may say, “It’s only Halloween”. Always remember, it’s not “only Halloween”. The holiday season is not excuse to remain polite and respectful towards those with a mental illness.

Written by Jamie Gurgul, PR & Events Coordinator, NAMI Wisconsin

Presenting the 10th Annual Healing Art Show!

It’s back once again! NAMI Wisconsin is prepping for one of our biggest events of the year… the 10th Annual Healing Art Show! This year, we have 35 wonderful artists who have all contributed their talented works.

For many individuals living with mental illness, art can be used a creative outlet to express and understand their emotions, perceptions and behaviors. Art can be a powerful therapeutic tool that fosters clarity and promotes healing and empowerment.

For a chance to meet these talented artist, please join us at the opening reception of the exhibition! This special event will be held on Friday, October 7th from 5:00-9:00pm. Stop by anytime! There will be fun for all ages, so bring the whole family.

The Healing Art Show is part of NAMI Wisconsin’s Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) celebrations (Oct. 2-8). This year’s show is graciously hosted by VSA Wisconsin, the state organization on arts and disability. 

For more information, visit