By Maria Alfonso
Mental health stigma creates an environment where ensuring strong, positive messaging becomes just as important to breaking down barriers as in-person educational experiences. For NAMI Washtenaw, this means being conscious of how our advocacy doesn’t just stop at our program outreach but extends throughout all of our online communication. It’s with this intention in mind that NAMI Washtenaw will be undergoing a number of changes to our outreach platforms in the coming months.
You may have noticed some of the changes already, like the new Google calendar listed on our social media pages or the increase in NAMI Washtenaw resource- and activity-focused posting. At the forefront of these changes, and those to come, is a desire to better communicate and advocate with NAMI program participants, volunteers and the greater Washtenaw community. In particular, we hope to shine a light on what makes NAMI Washtenaw special through three key characteristics our Marketing and Communications committee has identified:
NAMI Washtenaw’s ability to meet people wherever they are in their mental health journey is the most unique characteristic of our community. Radical understanding and acceptance are reflected in the names of our programs, Peer-to-peer and Family-to-Family, and through the wonderful people who help to grow our organization, each one of whom either lives with or loves someone with a mental health condition. Trying to carry over this ethos to our messaging means ensuring web accessibility and ease of access to information, inclusive of a wide range of voices that reflect the diversity of the community we are working hard to serve.
NAMI Washtenaw has worked to ensure that those with a mental health condition have access to quality care, are protected from the criminalization of their mental illness and are able to live free from discrimination. Bringing this tradition into the digital realm is critical for increasing our level of engagement and effectiveness. Advocacy alerts, outreach toolkits and greater promotion of activism opportunities will aid in mobilizing for change.
Education and Support
Each branch of our programming — Ending the Silence, Peer-to-Peer and Family-to-Family — educates about and raises awareness for mental health. Our communications aim to match these activities by sharing more educational resources, creating data infographics and providing more online informational flyers. Incorporating elements of a data-driven organization will help NAMI Washtenaw fight stigma with facts.
We hope that the ongoing changes continue to enrich your experience with NAMI and that you’re as excited as we are about what’s to come! If you’re interested in supporting NAMI through this transition, we’re always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join our marketing and communications team. Also, if you’re a local nonprofit that would like to work with NAMI on a project or cross-promotion, please reach out to me. Finally, change rarely comes without a few hiccups. Please feel free to email me with any comments or suggestions on our digital outreach platforms. In short, I look forward to hearing all of your stories and getting to know each of you as we work together to end stigma!