There’s a resource in Dubuque that can help with education, support and advocacy around mental health issues.

NAMI Dubuque stands for the Nation Alliance on Mental Illness. Being an affiliate of the nation’s largest mental health advocacy group means we work together as one of many NAMI organizations to bring evidence-based social support for the tri-state area.

From our office in downtown Dubuque, we provide free monthly support groups for peers and their families (caregivers/loved ones). To complement our support groups, we offer two in-depth classes — “Peer-to-Peer” and “Family-to-Family” — and these courses are held weekly for eight sessions and discuss mental health and various diagnoses. They take a deeper look into the journey surrounding mental health recovery.

Our nonprofit also offers free presentations and public speaking opportunities. We want to be accessible for the Dubuque community and have many unique ways we can be present and help create open dialogue about mental health.

We believe these available avenues help to reduce the amount of stigma surrounding mental health.

Advocacy enhances mental well-being by giving someone essential tools to speak freely about their care and how to best navigate their goals. Advocacy is part of our mission and one of our greatest assets in raising awareness. Raising awareness continues to bring topics of mental health into the spotlight.

Advocating for a social topic such as mental health produces a foundation for “problem-solving” and forces the issue at hand. Every time we advocate and show support in social settings, we work toward reducing stigma.

As our affiliate’s president, I had to learn how to advocate for the opportunity to story share on behalf of NAMI Dubuque. It took time to transition from a “behind the desk organization” to a nonprofit that is out in the community and talking about mental health, so others would be comfortable with who we are and what we are doing. Speaking up for yourself and for your organization takes time, but the outcome is worth the work.

Today, NAMI Dubuque and its board of directors has partnerships with other citywide stakeholders to provide resources and referrals for those making inquiries about mental health. Our mission matters, who we are matters, as we advocate and work from the peer and family perspective.

We believe in providing relatable support as many of us have been through our own mental health challenges and want to share information and fellowship. Much of our membership understands what it means to need help but also become a helper. We have a passion for mental health and believe in hope, recovery and peer support. We make a choice to advocate for those who cannot or do not know how to navigate the recovery process.

A long-term goal is to have NAMI organizations accessible to all 99 counties in the state of Iowa. This goal comes at a crucial time when access to care is a barrier and many individual needs go beyond traditional therapeutic practices and psychiatric care. While we do not provide clinical assessments and therapies, we do provide peer and social support, educational presentations about mental health, and community outreach events that help fill the gap. This can provide care and understanding when you or someone you love needs it the most.

By supporting us, you are supporting members of our community and our statewide effort of having accessible and reliable mental health care for all Iowans.

Farber is president of the nonprofit NAMI Dubuque, which offers peer and family support services, educational programs, classes and presentations, all free of charge to the community. Its web address is namidubuque.org and its Facebook page is facebook.com/NAMIDubuque. Contact Farber at president@namidubuque.org.