NAMI and Depression

by nkirs1 on April 25, 2014 - 8:48pm

NAMI and Depression

I read a post titled “Heart Problems Affected by Depression” by Kindsey on This post interested me because I know several individuals, including myself, who are battling with depression.  After reading the post I found myself on the National Alliance on Mental Illness home page (2014). After reading the website I found that they, and many other organizations, categorize depression as a mental illness. Depression is not always a mental illness; it can be caused by social factors too, and I believe that NAMI should recognize that.  

            National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a nonprofit organization and is “the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness” (NAMI webpage). NAMI goals include: raising awareness about mental illnesses, fighting for services for people and their families who are affected by mental illnesses, and funding research to find a cure for mental illnesses. 

            Currently NAMI’s advocate groups are working towards people having access to prescription medications without restrictions. They are working on the public health systems that are not serving the increasing population of children and adolescents that have mental health issues. It is also trying to gain support and funding to build housing for people with mental illnesses.

In 2012, NAMI received support from corporations and foundations such as Aetna Foundation, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, Magellan Health Services, and Walgreens. A few major donors that year were Microsoft Matching Gifts Program, Nancy Chevalier IRA Trust, The Harold R. Goldmann Charitable Trust, The James B. Thompson, Jr. Trust, and The Kravitz Family Trust. They received $645,873 in federal grants and contracts. To educate the public they sent out over 500,000 brochures on mental illness.

 NAMI’s biggest events are NAMIWalks,' which are “the largest and most successful mental health awareness and fundraising event in America.” The NAMIWalks' raise money to fund research and services for those affected by mental illnesses, they promote public awareness, and show support to a part of the community that is often stigmatized.  In 2011, over 135,000 people walked in 84 NAMIWalks events across the country. Through the toll-free NAMI HelpLine, they “respond personally to hundreds of thousands of requests each year, providing free referral, information and support.” In 2011 they responded to 200,000 incoming telephone, email, and others social medias in request of support. NAMI also holds multiple discussion groups online and in person. Discussion groups include: NAMI on Campus where students are given information and support to empower them to be active on their campus, Veterans & Military Resource Center to help those in and out of service with mental illnesses, and the Multicultural Action Center which works to end dissimilarities in mental care across diverse communities. 

NAMI has had much success in their goals. In 2011, they counted “a total of 116 VA hospitals and medical centers in 46 states are hosting NAMI education classes for families of veterans.” In 2011, NAMI trained 1,500 new volunteer teachers who educated over 12,500 new families and individuals through their peer-led programs. On September 3-6, the NAMI is having their National Convention in Washington, D.C. this will allow NAMI advocates “to educate their Congressional delegations about issues related to mental illness. Two thousand grassroots activists will meet face-to-face with our nation’s policymakers to demand change to our nation’s mental health care system.”

            Depression is considered a mental illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the body; but, it can be caused by social factors too. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, causes 60% of suicides are caused by depression (2014). Emile Durkheim believed that suicide was not just based off an individual’s psychological state, but based on the interactions a person has with other people. He theorized four types of suicide based on societal regulation (limitations set by a society) and integration (how connected a person is to the community): Egoistic, Altruistic, Anomic, and Fatalistic (Kivisto 2011). Basically what I am stating is depression is caused by social interactions (interactions with other people or with institutions), which eventually leads to suicide. The reason why I am bringing up Emile Durkheim’s theory is to point out that depression should not just be treated as a problem within a person, but treated as a problem with that person’s society.

I believe that NAMI is a respectable nonprofit organization; it just applies a lot of emphasis on depression being a mental disorder. The emphasis tends to develop a stigma for people who are depressed but are not diagnosed with a mental illness. It discourages these people from seeking help because they do not want to be labeled as mentally ill. I believe that NAMI may be even more successful if they explained the variations of depression, and if they added a discussion group that focused on people with temporary depression caused by social factors instead of biological factors. With this discussion group, NAMI can help stop some people with depression from developing serious mental illnesses; and end the stigma that if a person is depression than they are mentally ill.     




Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014).

Kivisto, Peter. (2011). Social Theory: Roots and Branches. New York. Oxford University Press Inc.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2012).



The sociological theory you pointed out is very interesting with a good relation with depression since sadly depression is often linked to suicide. If I understand correctly what you are saying it’s that we should try to find a solution to depression and suicide in the society instead of depression and suicide in a single person as the suicides are mostly, if not all, influenced by the society.
In Canada, there is an event, probably not as popular as the NAMI walks, that raises money for different mental health initiatives like the CAMH Foundation (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), Douglas Mental Health University Institute and many others. This event is Bell’s Let’s Talk. Well it’s not that much of an event but more of a commitment; every time a Bell user texts or makes a long distance phone call, or that #BellLetstalk is tweeted or on Facebook, Bell gives 5₵ to a mental health initiative. IN addition, Olympic athlete Clara Hughes is biking across the country to increase those tweets and information sharing.