NAMI is back in S.W. Colo., but what does that mean?

Let’s begin with a description: National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grass-roots mental-health organization dedicated to improving the lives of people and families affected by mental illness such as anxiety, depression, substance use, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder, to name a few.

NAMI operates at local, state and national levels. Each level of the organization provides support, education, information and referral and advocacy to support the 15 million Americans who live with serious mental illness today and their families. NAMI has more than 1,200 local affiliates spanning all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Canada and now Durango.

Before this year, the closest Colorado NAMI affiliate was in Grand Junction – not an easy trek over our beautiful Rocky Mountains when battling winter weather. Beginning in February and under the direction of Jodee Wild, president of NAMI Southwest Colorado, and Wayne Barnard, a member of the board of directors, the group is up and running, bringing a message of support, hope and recovery to those members of our community in need.

NAMISWCO provides local resources to help people, friends and families live rewarding and meaningful lives despite the challenges of mental illness by providing information, education and emotional support. It also provides resources and referrals to family members who need information about the rights of those with mental illness, and direction about how to navigate mental-health and judicial systems. NAMISWCO advocates for legislation, both locally and nationally, designed to improve the quality of treatment for those with mental illness and promotes research into the causes and treatments of brain disorders.

Current local services offered by NAMISWCO:

Family to Family Education Course: A series of 12 classes that meets weekly and is structured to create understanding and support for families and friends of people with mental illness while maintaining their own well-being.

Family Support Group: Meets the last Wednesday of each month and offers help in problem-solving, sharing of resources and empathic support for family members and friends of those with mental illness.

Peer to Peer: NAMI’s Recovery Curriculum: A unique, experiential learning program for people with any serious mental illness who are interested in establishing and maintaining their wellness and recovery.

NAMI’s education and support programs have served as beacons of hope for hundreds of thousands of families and people nationwide dealing with the challenges of mental illness. All NAMI services are free, ensuring programs are available to anyone regardless of economic background.

So come and join the mental-illness movement to increase literacy, erase stigma and begin the road to recovery.

You can contact NAMI Southwest Colorado at (970) 403-5590 or

Axis Health System is a proud supporter of NAMISWCO.

Liza Fischer is the Office of Member and Family Affairs coordinator for Axis Health System. She can be reached at or (970) 335-2206.