May is mental health awareness month. “Anything we can do to improve mental health in our community will strengthen our community,” said Patty Wisner, president of the Payson affiliate of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI is an advocacy group originally founded as a grassroots group by family members of people diagnosed with mental illness.

In our country, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 people are affected by a mental illness condition, it’s time for all of us to step up and change the conversation. As we learn about mental health, it becomes apparent that so many of our community’s greatest social challenges often have ties to mental illness – substance abuse, incarceration, hospitalization, self-harm, suicide, family dysfunction and more.

By providing support to help those in our community affected with mental illness become healthier, we improve the health of the community. One way to do this in Payson is to become a part of NAMI. Its mission is to provide advocacy, education, support and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives.

If you say you have never experienced this type of crisis you are probably deluding yourself. Most have either had a personal experience with depression or anxiety or watched a family member or friend go through the experience of feeling helpless, scared, angry or ashamed. Did they get help dealing with those feelings, or did they push them down until it got so bad they couldn’t cope and turned to drugs or fighting or withdrew into a severe depression?

NAMI folks are here to help. There are several ways to participate. As a supporter, joining the organization and being one of the advocate voices to #Stop the Stigma of mental illness; by helping yourself with education in learning how to cope with your stresses; or to be a support to the individual or the family member in dealing with a loved one who is struggling.

After last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, the Payson organization is regrouping. Currently, NAMI has two programs for people with mental health conditions in Rim Country. NAMI Connections is a free weekly support group that meets from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays at Mount Cross Lutheran Church, 601 E. Hwy. 260. Anyone who is having difficulty handling the stress in their life can stop by for support from the group and to learn how to cope with their situation. Walk-ins welcome. Skyler Brice, vice president of NAMI AZ is the facilitator.

Brice believes we buck the stigma of mental illness by getting to know our neighbors in the community who are struggling with mental health issues. He said. “You can’t dehumanize someone, if you know their name.” Help them to be part of the community.

NAMI Peer to Peer is a 10-week class for adults living with mental health challenges. The class is confidential and taught by trained Peer Mentors living in recovery themselves. The class begins Tuesday, July 13, and meets weekly from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Mount Cross Lutheran Church. The class is free but registration is required. To register, call 928-301-9140 or email namipayson@yahoo.com.

NAMI Family Support Groups plan to start meeting monthly in the near future. There is a place to #Stop the Stigma of mental illness in the Payson Community. Go to namipayson.org to become part of the solution.

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