NAMI Collier expands to meet growing mental health needs

Reporter: Corey Lazar Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

The growing need for mental illness solutions is forcing the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Collier County to expand.

Developing a mental illness can happen to any one of us when we least expect it, and all it takes is one diagnosis to flip your whole life sideways. WINK News spoke to one Naples woman whose life was saved by the NAMI Collier program.

“You know, it stings a little bit… there’s a process that I had to go through, to be able to be OK with my life, basically stopping and having to start again in a totally new world,” said Pamela.

Pamela’s new life began when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And it wasn’t just her life she was worried about, but her two children’s lives, too.

“I wanted to be there for them in the best form I could be as a mom,” Pamela said.

Without a job, on disability and feeling alone Pamela felt her mental health and sense of self-worth decline rapidly.

“I would have just a really difficult time, you know, handling some things, and it brought me down to a pretty low point,” Pamela said.

And if it wasn’t for finding NAMI in Collier County, Pamela and her family would be homeless. She took the first step by reaching out to NAMI. Among all of the organization’s classes and resources, the most important for her were the sense of community and the help in getting her into permanent housing with payment assistance.

Pamela says that the first step, getting help, is the hardest for people who are suffering the way she was. But it is worth it.

“I think that’s the one thing that I think people should know: You don’t know if somebody can help you until you ask—until you try,” Pamela said. “You have to kind of take the initiative, but they’re here.”

And NAMI Collier is here in an even bigger way. It just opened in a brand-new, larger building with a schedule full of classes and groups each week for those suffering mentally.

“And that’s kind of been a hidden secret, I think, of all that we do,” said Beth Hatch, CEO of NAMI Collier. “And now that we are in one space, that allows us to not only serve them, meet their needs, but expand because, obviously, our community needs us.”

Hatch recently took over as CEO, and a major part of her work at NAMI Collier is helping the rising number of children who are anxious and depressed.

“We have 450 active navigating cases that our team is working on, and they’ve seen so much trauma, so much change, and we need to be there for them,” Hatch said.

If you want to join the fight to end the stigma of mental illness, the NAMI Collier Walk is Saturday morning in Baker Park. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., and the walk starts at 9 a.m. WINK News anchor Corey Lazar will emcee the event.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.