On Thursday, May 4th, over 100 NAMI advocates from around the state gathered in Madison to advocate for mental health. The day kicked off at the Park Hotel where attendees enjoyed brunch and networking with other advocates. The morning program included a welcome address by State Representative Joan Ballweg who discussed her work on the Assembly Mental Health Committee. Immediately following, attendees learned about the Wisconsin state budget process, mental health items included in the Governor’s budget and where the gaps lay. Attendees were then empowered to put their own stories of mental illness into action through an interactive NAMI Smarts Training, provided by Sita Diehl, Director of Policy and State Outreach.
After brunch, attendees marched to the Capitol where the warm May weather was perfect for a rally. Lime green signs proclaiming: “No Health Without Mental Health” and “Early Intervention Saves Lives”, among others, were the perfect backdrop against the bright, white Capitol building. Passersby heard compelling speeches from consumers, family members, students, advocates and legislators. The diverse line-up of speakers showcased how mental illness does not discriminate—it really does affect everyone.
After the rally, attendees marched up the Capitol stairs for one-on-one meetings with their elected officials. They discussed the necessity of affordable mental health treatment services, transportation in and around their communities and the important role employment plays in recovery. The event was also attended by almost 50 high school students from Milwaukee who were empowered to be their own advocates and raise their voices about their own mental health challenges. Finally, attendees spoke up for those not able to be present. They explained that there are too many people with mental illness in our jail and prison systems and these individuals also deserve to experience recovery through the appropriate diversion and referral to mental health services.
Thank you to everyone who attended and took Action on the Square! We couldn’t have done it without you! For those who couldn’t attend, please continue to raise your voice, as all people with mental illness and their families deserve to be heard.
For more information about how to get involved with advocacy or questions about current mental health legislation, please contact the Advocacy Coordinator at 608-268-6000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Crystal Hester, Advocacy Coordinator at NAMI Wisconsin