NAMI Family Fun Day a Success
BY JUSTIN B. PHILLIPS
WESTLAKE — Anastasia Armstrong, executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, watched as people poured into the pavilion set up in a corner of Pinederosa Park on Saturday. In the middle of the crowd was a performer doing a folk dance called clogging to some of the lively music played by a nearby DJ. In the back, a grill smoked as hamburgers and hotdogs moved on and off the coals. Away from the pavilion, a giant bounce castle tilted and swayed as kids climbed in and out.
It was all part of the inaugural NAMI Family Fun Day, and Armstrong was the driving force behind its creation. For Armstrong, the reasons for the event are wide ranging, but what she wants people to take away from it has always remained the same.
“This is our way of getting our community engaged with our cause as well as connect to our members, thanking them for being a part of our cause on an everyday basis,” Armstrong said.
NAMI is a local nonprofit organization that provides education, advocacy and support for families and people affected by mental illness. Members are recruited from the five-parish area.
The crowd enjoying the afternoon in the park included residents, volunteers, and people affected by mental illness, as well as their families. Despite the number of people in attendance, Armstrong said NAMI is still in need of support and with public events like the Family Fun Day, hopefully the word will spread quickly.
“Whenever it comes to mental illness, people don’t want to talk about it. There’s still a stigma about mental illness in the community,” Armstrong said. “We really have to reach out to people to tell them that one in four people over the age of 18 will be affected by mental illness in one way or another. Sometimes it’s really hard to find the services and the support services. That’s a reason why our organization is so involved, so we can promote that education and promote the acceptance of those that may be affected by an illness.”
A perfect example of Armstrong’s goal to get residents involved was Asa Thomas. He attended the event with a large portion of his family, including his mother, brother and sister-in-law. Thomas said he didn’t personally have anyone in his family with mental illness, but he knew what the event was about and wanted to show his support.
“My mom is the one that actually told me about this. After that, I knew I wanted to come out and be a part of it,” Thomas said. “It’s a great thing. We need to have more organizations and events like this in the area.”