National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Community Subscriber
SF Bay Area

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. What started as a small group of families gathered around a kitchen table in 1979 has blossomed into the nation's leading voice on mental health. Today, we are an association of hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.

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This isn't exactly what you asked for, but may help get you there.

There's a group called NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) with local branches in the East Bay, Contra Costa and Marin. All offer separate support groups for the mentally ill and family members, plus several other resources (help lines, training, etc.). It's a good way to meet people who have walked in your shoes and who can probably offer practical advice and referrals. You yourself might find NAMI a great resource for yourself--trying to help someone you love with mental illness can be taxing and difficult.

I can't offer any particular suggestion on the adoptee issue, but there are a lot of on-line groups who discuss this actively. I've browsed them because my mom is mentally ill and was essentially abandoned by her parents and raised by resentful family members.

However, I think you might do better to steer your husband for the time being towards NAMI resources, because some of the websites I've looked at regarding adoption are pretty contentious and include trolls who insist adoptees can't be loved like birth children--not very helpful to someone already coping with disordered mental and emotional regulation.

It might help your husband to realize that the sense of being raised by people who can't relate to you is pretty common for those with non-standard mental processing, whether they are raised by birth parents or adoptive parents.

Good luck to you and your husband and god bless your travels.

I have been looking for the same thing. Sending you support from someone going through the same situation. It's not easy. 

I did find this, FWIW:

Good luck!

----Parent Dealing with the Same

I also recommend the NAMI meetings in Albany.   They meet on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00pm in the church at 980 Stannage Avenue, Albany.

There are also free 12-week "Family to Family" classes that are NAMI sponsored and offered periodically.

I found these both to be very comforting and they actually helped me keep my sanity through a very difficult time with my son. 

Stay strong and take things day by day.  It does get better eventually.

Hello Missy, In my experience it takes working with heartbreak, shame, confusion, denial, etc  to come to the clarity you have about your child's mental challenges.  As a parent of a child-- now an adult -- with multiple challenges (mental illness being one) I know first hand.   Have you checked out the local NAMI, meetings are in church at Stannage @ Marin (Albany area)?  NAMI = National Alliance for Mental Illness ? They have a group designed specifically for parents (and/or loved ones) of teens and young adults.  From that group more connections/suggestions/referrals are possible.

  BTW: As I was very much about alternative remedies/help for health (and very much against allopathic medicine) I tried to address my son's problems with emphasis on diet, exercise, meditation, etc.  It didn't work.  In fact, he suffered greatly, I saw -- in hindsight.  No doubt it works for some people however, but my son isn't one of them.  ( I am shamed, occasionally, by well-meaning, yet ignorant people who feel they know better....but have never lived with a child like ours).   

   My prayers for you and your daughter in this journey. 

You might want to contact NAMI. They have some Bay Area Chapters. Then you could talk about this with people in similar situations.

As far as support groups go, my family did the 12 week Family-to-Family program offered by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).   I recommend it to any family facing mental illness.

I think the only chapter in the Bay Area is in Pleasanton.


There is a parent's support group that meets in Lafayette.  It's a while since I attended but it it is one of the few around here so hopefully it is still going - if you go to Nami,org you should be able to find more resources.  These links provide lots of information - CABF was particularly helpful when I needed it.  Hang in there - it can be very isolating to be the parent of a child with a mood disorder. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Oct 2013

RE: Kaiser psychiatrist for 17-year-old son

I'm afraid I can't suggest a psychiatrist, but I do want to encourage you to look into the support groups offered by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill ( They are offered in a multi-week series and are very focused, almost like trainings on how to cope with a loved one's mental illness. Very helpful. I was there for a spouse, but I think more people attend as a parent. There are NAMI chapters in most counties, the groups are free, and I can't recommend them enough. You learn about various types of mental illness, how to respond, how to cope with symptoms, etc. I thought of you because I still remember a couple who attended the same group I was in because their son had had a psychotic break after a drug overdose. you're in my thoughts; good luck

Nov 2012

RE: Teen Hardly Eating, Won't Go to School

Your son sounds severely depressed. I don't feel any judgement for you, only sympathy. You have done all the right things so far.

Check out NAMI - the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. They do free multi-week peer education sessions. They are wonderful. In these groups you will meet other people with teeens who have mental illness, and you will learn some coping skills. And you can also ask your local NAMI chapter for resources and advice, even if you don't do the peer education sessions. If your local NAMI isn't very active/helpful, try one for another county. I attended the peer support sessions in a neighboring county because their hours were more convenient (it was a weekly commitment).

My only other thought is to call your county's legal services agency and ask them what your rights are with regard to his school. I learned the hard way that our school psychologist wasn't being completely truthful about all the services the school is mandated to provide. I remember him saying ''based on your son's outside psychological testing results, I wouldn't recommend further testing.'' He didn't say: ''Hey, if you put your request for more testing in writing, I'm REQUIRED by LAW to provide it!'' Legal services told me about that. Learn more about your rights.

I wish I had more advice for you. I understand what you're going through. You cannot MAKE a teenager do anything. He may need residential treatment. You are coping with something bigger than you can handle alone. I hope NAMI can point you in the right direction. Keep doing what you're already doing - loving your son and advocating for answers. rooting for you; be strong

Not eating and refusing to eat as a way to control can be very serious. It is something that could be life threatening. Here is a group that can help you understand what is going on:

Not sure if they can help with services, but it is worth a try. Changing insurance with good coverage could be a big step. Your son may need to be hospitalized, and that is not an easy choice, nor is the process simple. But it may potentially need to be considered. It is not likely that this will go away by itself. There is not a lot of range of services between seeing a therapist and hospitalization. Herrick Hospital in Berkeley has a good program. If he is under 18 you have the power to sign him into a residential program, after 18 it is much more complicated, and he can refuse treatment up to a certain point. Check out NAMI hoping for the best for you 

June 2011

RE: Support group for parents of ED/LD teen

I'd be surprised if you aren't already familiar with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), but, just in case you aren't, here are links to the national website as well as the East Bay website. . Best wishes

April 2011

RE: Support group for depressives and or their spouses

Check with the National Alliance For Mental Health. They have s support group for depressives in San Francisco. According to the link there are also affiliates in Oakland and Albany. What is positive about NAMI is that they are a group that encourages both medical and social management of mental illness. It also helps family members reduce their feelings of isolation, and advocates for better medical care and the governmental financial resources necessary to provide that care. anon

April 2011

RE: Husband's debilitating depression

Check with the National Alliance For Mental Health. They have s support group for depressives in San Francisco. According to the link there are also affiliates in Oakland and Albany. What is positive about NAMI is that they are a group that encourages both medical and social management of mental illness. It also helps family members reduce their feelings of isolation, and advocates for better medical care and the governmental financial resources necessary to provide that care. anon

April 2008

RE: Dealing with verbally abusive mother now that I'll be a parent

Your mother is mentally ill. I have a brother with schitzophrenia, and have found NAMI - the National Alliance on Mental Illness - helpful. They have free groups, and might have one in your area. Their website for groups in California is here:

Their main web site at, might also have some helpful information. And as far as what to tell people who ask about your mother, just say she is dealing with illness right now and you haven't seen her recently, then change the subject. There is no reason anyone outside your immediate family has to know what's going on with her.

March 2006

RE: My bipolar mom living with us, showing signs of dementia - where can she go?

I am sorry to hear about your Mom. Hang in there! There are some great resources for family members.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)has really good class called Family to Family. It's run by family members for family members of people with brain disorders and it is a great resource. The Nami affiliate in Alameda County telephone # is (510)835-5010, or (510)524-1250. (925)646-5798 in Contra Costa. Or go to I took it after my husband was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and it has helped so much.

I wish you all the best. I hope you find the help you need. anonymous

August 1999

RE: Tell children about their dad's suicide?

My heart goes out to you and your children. I wish I had more to contribute to help you. The main thing I want to say is that illnesses like Bipolar Disorder are frequently fatal, just the same way that other physical illnesses like cancer are. People sometimes think that mental illnesses are less valid, or think that since they are just in the mind that they shouldn't be taken seriously. But those illnesses kill people just as surely as cancer does.

As far as your children being at increased risk, there is still alot unknown about how heredity works with Bipolar Disorder. Most family members never develop any form of the illness. Your children's best bet is to educate themselves about the illness, and for other family members to be vigilant about noticing any early symptoms. There is much new research being done in this area, and it is really possible that in the next few years there could be new treatments that are more effective. The best way to keep up with these issues might be through NAMI, a grassroots organization devoted to mental health, they have a website at My best wishes are with you.