‘We had to fill the void’: NAMI Columbia provides mental health support any way it can

The National Alliance on Mental Illness in Columbia works to provide support and resources to people struggling with mental health issues. Throughout the pandemic, it seems everyone has struggled one way or another, and NAMI provided much-needed assistance.

Even when many of NAMI’s services transitioned to online platforms, including Facebook, Zoom and group chats, the organization found ways to keep people connected and assure them that help is always available, according to David Rosado, a co-facilitator with the organization.

Rosado first came across NAMI in his own search for support in 2016. Now, he leads support groups and makes sure members are checking in, looking out for one another and getting the help they need. As a military veteran, Rosado frequently works with the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital and participates in Buddy Check 22, a program that encourages checking in with veterans.

Co-facilitators like Rosado kept people connected when they needed help most. Over the past year, they’ve volunteered their time to make sure members of the community felt heard and supported, even at their worst.

“We know that that need is there,” Rosado said. “And as long as that need is there, I’m going to be making sure that our focus is … reaching that person who’s just beyond desperation.

NAMI Columbia is a winner of this year’s Kindness in Business awards in the Kindness to Community category. The awards recognize Boone County businesses and organizations that have exhibited and promoted kindness during the past year.

Missouri Business Alert spoke with Rosado about NAMI Columbia and its efforts to show kindness. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Missouri Business Alert: How does NAMI try to embody kindness?

David Rosado: The major principle behind what we do at NAMI is being there when you are at your worst. The idea of being able, prepared and capable of being there for someone at their worst, especially when you then find out that their worst is worse than most. That process is something that takes most people down a path of self-discovery. Part of that is the greatest joy, perhaps the greatest reward, the greatest, richest thing that you could ever do is just be kind.

MBA: NAMI used Facebook, Zoom and text groups to keep members connected. What inspired you as an organization to adapt to the pandemic and keep services available to those in need?

DR: We saw initially that there was a huge surge of suicide and suicide ideation. (Everything) that took place just resulted in people needing to talk about killing themselves, needing to have the conversation. … That’s what was missing. There was an avenue and channel for people to talk about, on a daily basis, what it was like for them to wake up today and go “I don’t want to be here anymore.” All of a sudden that went away. We had to fill the void. And that’s what we did.

MBA: What lessons has NAMI taken away from the pandemic?

DR: One of the things that we’ve really come away with is the concept of chronic. We’ve finally heard from the general population, “Oh my gosh, how long is this going to go on?” Well, imagine living your whole life like that. We had a pandemic, and that changed our perspective. When I’m not well, things are always going to seem a thousand times worse. And no matter how good things are, they’re never going to seem really good. And so the perspective of what we’re going through and how it affects our mental health is really just in our control. We’ve taken away from COVID and 2021 that the greatest tool that we have for mental health moving forward today is the perspective of our own health status.

MBA: There’s been a movement in recent years to bring attention to mental health issues. Do you feel there are still harmful stigmas and stereotypes surrounding mental health?

DR: I think it’s really hard to pinpoint where it begins and ends, right. I think it’s important to make sure … that it continues to move in the right direction, because we’re really not sure how it’s really affecting an individual. We just want to make sure everyone is getting helped. Of course it’s there. It’s always gonna be there. So, yes, we’ll always need to draw attention to that.

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