By Katrina Gay, NAMI Director of Communications
As Thomas Moore, the Irish poet, once said, “To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship.”
And here at the 32nd NAMI Annual Convention in Chicago, it is clear that it is the friendships that truly matter.
Each summer, people gather at the convention from across the country and the world to inspire one another and gain knowledge about mental illness. They come to connect with old friends and make new ones, to share their stories of struggle and triumph and to contribute to the thoughts and ideas that encapsulate NAMI.
This year, the NAMI Annual Convention welcomes a crowd of more than 2,300 individuals, families and others affected by mental illness.
They come for a short repose from the important work they do as advocates and community leaders and reflect on what they have achieved, how far they have come and what the vision for the future should be.
It becomes evident to everyone here that NAMI is more than an organization. We are a community. A family. A movement.
At pre-convention activities on Wednesday, July 6, early arrivals were inspired by one another as well as by opportunities to engage with author and mental health leader Elyn Saks.
Elyn spoke to a standing room only crowd, sharing her personal story of living with schizophrenia and recounting excerpts from her book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness, which chronicles her life with the illness as well as her successes both personally and professionally.
The recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacAuthur Foundation Fellowship -- also known as a “genius grant” -- Elyn has established the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics located at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. Her work will continue to make a difference and change the way we understand mental illness as part of the human condition.
Through her intimate interactions with the audience, Elyn offered encouragement and inspiration to all in attendance.
Luckily for us, this is just the beginning. There are still three more jam-packed days of events.
At the NAMI Convention, one realizes that NAMI’s generations span the challenges we have faced in the past and those that we face in years ahead. And as tough as things gets, belief and friendship are part of NAMI’s heart.
As we celebrate our successes and prepare for the challenges that remain, it is our common experiences with mental illness that unite us.
It is our dedication to NAMI and to one another that are the essence of the NAMI Annual Convention.