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



Call for Iris Award Nominations!

Do you know an outstanding leader who deserves to be recognized? We want to hear from you!

Each year, NAMI Wisconsin's Board of Directors selects people to recognize at the statewide Annual Conference. Recognition awards are given to people who stand out in their efforts, contributions and dedication to improve the quality of life of people affected by mental illness and to promote recovery. 

Click here to download a nomination form. Nomination deadline is Feb. 10, 2016.

Here are the 2016 Iris Award categories: 

Advocacy Award – for outstanding efforts to influence public-policy, resource allocation, and/or beliefs within political, economic, and social systems or institutions.

Lifetime Contribution to Advocacy Award - for a lifetime of dedicated efforts to influence public-policy, resource allocation, and/or beliefs within political, economic, and social systems or institutions.

Outstanding Mental Health Professional Award – For dedication and commitment to promoting recovery and improving the treatment and quality of life for people affected by mental illnesses.

Research Award – for research efforts that are instrumental to furthering treatment, recovery, and care for individuals with mental illness and their families.

Education Advancement Award – for efforts to breakdown stigma by providing education about mental illness, treatment, recovery, and/or NAMI

CIT Officer of the Year Award - For outstanding service to the community that embodies the fair and kind treatment for people with mental illness and works proactively to deescalate situations.

Government Service Award – For service at the local or state level of government by someone who works to improve the quality of life of people affected by mental illnesses and/or promote recovery.

Media Award – For exemplary efforts to use their media influence to increase education about mental illness and breakdown stigma

Leadership Award – For outstanding leadership at the state or local level

Volunteer of the Year Award – For an unprecedented dedication of time and talent to support NAMI

Philanthropy Award – for unmeasured generosity and dedication to promote and strengthen NAMI

Spark Plug Award –for enthusiastic and vigorous efforts to ‘spark’ action, promote programs, fight stigma, etc.

Community Service Project of the Year Award – For an exemplary community-based project that worked to improve the quality of life of people affected by mental illnesses and/or promote recovery

Special Recognition Award – for contributions and/or efforts that went above and beyond to support NAMI

Outstanding Contribution to NAMI Wisconsin – for dedication and support to promote the mission and vision of NAMI Wisconsin

Board of Directors Service Award – For outstanding service to the NAMI board of directors

Build it Together Award – For outstanding contributions to address mental health needs of underserved communities

Jim Maddox Peer of the Year – for outstanding leadership and contributions to their peers

NEW: Seeking Support and Community in a Digital Age

This digital age is upon us. And while there are many important aspects to unplugging and getting away from technology to decompress, it is also important we embrace all of the positive support that is now possible given our electronic advancements.

With that, NAMI Wisconsin is excited to release one of our newest support tools “Seeking Support and Community in a Digital age.” It is a 3-page guide outlining some of the most commonly used and top rated websites, texting support systems, applications and electronic workbooks meant to provide support, education and resources to those in need. 

Have you used any of these apps or websites before? Plan on trying one out? Then we want to hear from you! Send us your review of an app or website and tell us about your experiences with it. Send reviews to

While NAMI Wisconsin does not advocate for the use of digital supports over more traditional forms of treatment and support, we make the claim that as an interim or supplemental support system, digital support tools can be instrumental in helping someone feel supported or work towards their recovery. 

Please note, NAMI Wisconsin has not used each of these tools directly, rather the list was compiled based on recommendations from organizations such as NAMI, SAMHSA and NIMH.