As we continue to address the importance of mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month, we want to spotlight a past recipient who has created a huge impact on the understanding of mental health in the United States. Nancy Abraham of Madison, Wisconsin founded the ‘National Alliance of Mental Illness,” also known as NAMI. 

NAMI originated as the “Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Dane County,” which Nancy started to connect with other families struggling with the impact of mental illness, after her son Dylan was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1974. During this time, it was common to commit those with mental illness to psychiatric hospitals, but Nancy and Dylan were determined to find another way to beat it. This led to her reaching out to other mothers in Madison with children who were also battling schizophrenia. After only two years they had enough support to call a national conference, and the National Alliance off Mental Illness was formed. 

NAMI was founded on three important tenets: advocacy, education, and support. Nancy has worked for over four decades to do just that for not only her son, but also for others impacted by mental illness. There are nearly a thousand NAMI affiliates around the country that provide support programs and community education, as well as advocacy for funding and better access to mental health services.  

Nancy, we thank you for all the work you have done to change the course of history and understanding of mental illness.