The COVID-19 pandemic has caused higher rates of depression and anxiety, especially among young adults. But it has also prompted some mental health services to become more accessible.
That’s happening this week as a chapter of Wisconsin’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) launched a new statewide virtual support group for people experiencing mental illness and their families.
NAMI is an organization dedicated to helping people suffering from mental illness and promoting their recovery. One way to do this is by hosting support groups for people dealing with mental illness and their families.
During the pandemic, many of these support groups met virtually. It worked so well that NAMI Wisconsin is now expanding its reach.
“We have local NAMI affiliates covering much of the state, but not the entire state. For someone, it could still be an hour, an hour and a half drive,” explains Emilie Smiley, NAMI Wisconsin program director. “We want[the support group]to be as accessible as possible.”
The virtual support group meets once a month. It is available free of charge to any interested adult in Wisconsin.
This is important because mental illness is prevalent.
“We know that one in five people in the United States has a mental illness,” says Smiley. “Since COVID, mental health is really at the forefront, and more and more young people and adults need additional support. can provide space for support and community, and people who feel supported often end up with better mental health outcomes.
However, support groups are not always easily accessible, especially in rural areas like parts of northern Wisconsin.
Providing a support group effectively changes that.
“Individuals in rural areas have less access to care, whether it be mental health or physical health,” says Smiley. “I want to provide a space that everyone can access, no matter where they live.”
The NAMI Wisconsin Virtual Support Group starts this week. Smiley says there is still space for new participants. Registration information can be found at NAMIwisconsin.org.