Support our families and their loved ones!
Please join NAMI Buffalo & Erie County in supporting families and individuals – your neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends – by contributing to our annual fundraiser. Your generosity makes a better life for everyone since mental illness affects us all.
Thank you for helping families by providing hope and understanding. Your generosity makes a difference especially at this time when services are needed more than ever.
NAMI Buffalo accomplishes our work through the brave and passionate volunteers who have personally and painfully experienced mental illness in their families. Chris is one such volunteer who gives her time, talent and generous spirit to others who are on the same journey. Her motivation stems from recognizing NAMI’s critical role for families. Read her powerful story below.
Chris’s story shows how important access to classes and groups, and our Helpline, are for families.
Three years ago, I attended a community meeting where a NAMI member did a presentation about mental illness, resources, and NAMI’s programs and services. I listened intently as I had a family history of mental illness and had experienced its devastating effects for as long as I could remember. From that time forward, NAMI has been essential to me and my family. I only wish I had found them sooner.
I grew up with a mother with erratic behavior, and siblings with undiagnosed mental illnesses, which I only recognized once I attended the NAMI Family-to-Family education class. I suffered from depression my whole life and my three children were diagnosed with mental illness.
My son Eddie, diagnosed with debilitating ADHD as a child, received comprehensive medical and behavioral treatment in a special program. Parents received education and support and were part of the team. Eddie, now 26, continues to manage this mental illness and is a successful insurance broker, a partner in a roofing company and co-owner of several restaurants.
My daughters were not so lucky. My oldest daughter Amber, who over the years had many different diagnoses, died at the age of 29 from a serious medical event, most likely as a result of her long battle with mental illness and addiction. She was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression at 9 years old when she began cutting herself. Prior to this time, she was a bright, popular, well-adjusted child who attended a school for the gifted and talented. As a newly single mom, I had little support. I was given no guidance from professionals about how to best support my daughter, including looking for signs of decompensation. I gave Amber her medicine, took her to doctor appointments and hoped for the best. Tragically, Amber eventually turned to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, which is not unusual for individuals with mental illness.
Amber struggled with mental illness for most of her short life, and six years ago, I lost my beautiful, smart and funny first-born child.
My younger daughter Kelsey, now 25, returned home in May after spending nearly four years in drug rehab and sober living in Los Angeles. She decided to seek help only after four of her closest friends, including her boyfriend, died of overdoses in the same year. It was a long road to sobriety, and she relapsed many times, including once since she has been home.
She was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16 and was hospitalized after expressing the intent to kill herself. Once again, despite Kelsey’s several hospitalizations, medications and counseling, I received no guidance or resources to help my daughter. I wish I had known about NAMI then; I can only imagine how different our journey may have been.
By the time I heard of NAMI, one child was gone, one was in rehab, and the one who received help was building an empire. I decided I needed to get involved, even after so many years in the mental health world. I wanted to finally understand the illnesses that plagued my family, so I participated in the 8-week Family-to-Family class and attended support groups. Wanting other families to benefit from these services, I trained to be a teacher and facilitator.
I find great meaning and satisfaction as a NAMI volunteer. It’s been a long journey, but NAMI has helped me make sense of the many crises my children and I endured over the years. I now know I am not alone. I am motivated to help others, even though I couldn’t help my own family.
Thank you for helping families by providing hope and understanding, and by supporting NAMI’s work.
Your donation directly impacts the lives of families and their loved ones with mental illness. Your generosity makes a difference especially at this time when services are needed more than ever.