by Angela Sivak, NAMI Communications Intern
In the past eight weeks, I have served as an intern at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). My experience here has endowed me with an array of new skills and given me the chance to attend meetings and briefings concerning national issues on mental health.
My internship at NAMI offered me the opportunity to attend a selection committee meeting for the 2011 Voice Awards, sponsored by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), where I met with executives of other organizations focusing on mental health, such as the American Psychological Association. Before the Voice Awards meeting, I had been given the task of viewing two episodes from the television show Harry's Law and at the meeting I presented my impressions of how accurately the episodes dealt with mental illness. It allowed me to analyze how the media shapes our judgment and perceptions of these disabilities and how helpful they can be in informing the public.
In addition to the Voice Awards, I was able to attend and take notes in a telephone interview that Bob Carolla, NAMI's director of media relations had with former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy about his "One Mind for Research" campaign. Though I had read up on the topic beforehand, hearing Kennedy explain his campaign gave me more insight into the overall mission. I knew beforehand that it had been a movement to develop a deeper understanding of the human brain, but as I listened to Kennedy speak passionately of his campaign I saw the advantages and benefits this movement would offer, not only in understanding mental illness, but being able to treat mental illness.
While the Voice Awards and Kennedy's interview were important sessions I got the chance to attend, there are also small tasks around the office that I have been able to take responsibility for. For instance, every morning I compile a list of important news articles relating to mental health and email the list to everyone in the office. I have also had the chance to sit in on an important briefing on Capitol Hill that countered an inaccurate portrayal of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program by the Boston Globe. I also honed my literary skills by writing feature stories for NAMI's publication, the Advocate, and of course, I was given the chance to share my experience through this blog.