In Our Own Voice

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) works to end stigma around mental health through support, education, and advocacy in our community.

One NAMI program that promotes conversation and awareness on this topic is called In Our Own Voice, in which people with lived experience talk openly about what it’s like to live with a mental health condition through public presentations.

At NAMI Finger Lakes, we are growing the In Our Own Voice program to increase awareness and normalize discussions around mental health. We provide training using a NAMI signature program model for people with lived experience who wish to become presenters and help others through sharing their story.

NAMI-FL coordinates all presentations, which range in length, depending upon how many presenters participate. We can also facilitate virtual or in-person presentations depending upon the comfort level of the presenters and current COVID-19 status or other restrictions.

Some Benefits of In Our Own Voice:

For the presenter:

—Build confidence and pride in one’s experience and achievements

—Promote continued recovery

—Gain volunteer hours to use toward other certifications

—Enhance public speaking and storytelling skills

—Build a resume of appearances and references

—Change attitudes and assumptions about people with mental health conditions

—Know that you’re changing lives through sharing your experience

For the community:

—Increased program offerings to participants of recovery and wellness programs (as attendees or presenters)

—Increased program offerings to participants of work empowerment programs (as attendees or presenters)

—Public education events about living with mental health conditions

—An end to stigma around mental health conversations and care

—An introduction to free NAMI mental health support and education

If you know or are an adult with lived experience who would like to learn more or become an In Our Own Voice presenter, please email

Click here for more information about In Our Own Voice.

—By Beth McGee

Beth McGee is the executive director of NAMI Finger Lakes

Get a Cupcake Button!

Student organizations are fanning out across Ithaca to support this year’s “Cupcake Button Fundraising Campaign” organized by The Sophie Fund, which will hand over all donations to the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.


Students will be tabling at GreenStar Natural Foods Market, on college campuses, and other locations around town, collecting donations in exchange for a colorful button featuring a painting of a cupcake. The campaign is held in conjunction with the annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest, which will be held in the Ithaca Commons on Saturday, October 19.

“We are honored to designate the Advocacy Center as the recipient for this year’s Cupcake Button Fundraising Campaign,” said Scott MacLeod, a co-founder of The Sophie Fund. “The Advocacy Center does incredibly valuable work in our community, fighting sexual assault and domestic violence and providing essential support to victims of abuse.”

Last year’s cupcake button campaign raised $1,367.50, which was given to the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County.

Student groups participating in the 2019 campaign include:

—Active Minds at Ithaca College

—Active Minds at Ithaca High School

—Cornell University student organizations: Cornell Minds Matter; Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter; Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity; PATCH (Pre-Professional Association Towards Careers in Health); and the Mortar Board Der Hexenkreis senior honor society

Image caption: Detail from Evolution (2009), a painting by Sophie Hack MacLeod

Why Care?

May is Mental Health Month, and a great time to celebrate the fantastic work done by organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and its local chapter NAMI-Finger Lakes.


NAMI is running a campaign throughout the month called “Why Care?” As NAMI explains it, the campaign is an opportunity to share the importance of mental health treatment, support and services to the millions of people, families, caregivers and loved ones affected by mental illness and a challenge to address broken systems and attitudes that present barriers to treatment and recovery.

From NAMI:

Care has the power to make a life-changing impact on those affected by mental health conditions. Through our own words and actions, we can shift the social and systemic barriers that prevent people from building better lives.


Care is a simple 4-letter word, but a powerful way to change lives for people affected by mental illness.

It’s an action. It’s a feeling. It’s a gift we give to ourselves and to each other. People feel loved when someone cares. People feel heard when someone cares. People recover when someone cares. Society changes when people care. Entire systems change when people care. For more than 40 years, NAMI has been a beacon of help and hope by providing the support, education and advocacy to ensure that all people affected by mental health conditions get the care they need and deserve.

Central to the campaign is encouraging others to learn the facts about mental illness. NAMI’s goal is to bring mental health education to all corners of our communities. With education, people can identify warning signs of mental health conditions and help someone who may be struggling.

Navigating life with mental illness can be difficult, and NAMI wants to make it easier to find resources and people who care. The WhyCare? campaign features a webpage, sharable graphics and a downloadable emoji pack for smartphones— resources that can be used as a way to reach out to someone or to show your community that you care about those with mental illness.

By caring and working together, we can create positive change. We can shift the social and systemic barriers that prevent people from getting appropriate care and treatment. We can work towards a nation where everyone affected by mental illness can find the support and care they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Tell the world why you care using the hashtags #WhyCare and #NAMIcares

To join NAMI’s Why Care? campaign, check here.

Click here to connect with NAMI-Finger Lakes.