Everyone pictured here has a mental illness. They live in this community. A daughter. An uncle. A sister. A friend. A neighbor. A co-worker.
And everyone pictured here receives or gives help at the Stanislaus affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI), which serves as a kind of community center for those who have nowhere else to go, or who want to help mental illness find a more normal place in Modesto. Some attend group therapy sessions there. Others – more than 50 – volunteer to take their peers to the movies or to tell their personal stories to groups and each other in the hopes of bringing mental illness out of the shadows.
“It would be nice to have it looked at as an illness, not a mental problem,” said Joyce Plis, executive director of NAMI Stanislaus, in its 17th year. “My hope is that we can do something about the stigma and do education to the public so they know how important it is for people to get treatment.” With treatment, Plis says, people with mental illness can function well in society.
“I’m all for fighting the stigma,” said Richard M. Hamilton, 53, of Modesto. “I want people to know that it’s OK. I’m OK.”