Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness Cook County North Suburban

Name of Innovative Program: 
NAMI CCNS Balance for Success Support Group
Sponsoring Organization
National Alliance on Mental Illness Cook County North Suburban
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Nancy Sussman (NAMI CCNS Program Director)
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
The NAMI Balance for Success Support Group was designed to balance recovery from a mental illness with life at college or work. Focus is on the challenges that come with balancing the everyday pressures of work or college life, and living with a diagnosed mental illness. Furthermore, this support group is facilitated by a NAMI trained individual; they themselves, in recovery from a mental illness, and professionally minded.Throughout the country, there are many support groups for adults with mental illness, yet hard to find is one that focuses specifically, on the previously mentioned tasks of Balance for Success.Since it’s inception, Balance for Success has provided an environment for confidential discussion for these individuals.   Only in existence for a year and a half, we are continuously in discussion and action planning on the marketing and further development of this important group. 
Creativity and Innovation: 
The overall mission of NAMI is to improve the quality of life of those with mental illness and those that care for them through education, support and advocacy. Balance for Success was developed, as there was a missing link in our support for adults with mental illness, seeking to balance their mental illness with their professional life.  Too often our families would ask if we had a support group for their family member, perhaps, a professional in their field of work or education.  To this request, we would reluctantly refer them to our only NAMI support group (at the time) for adults with mental illness, ‘Connections’; (a vehicle for conversation for any person struggling with mental illness).  Balance for Success, has proven to be a valuable alternative for those in that population of academic or professional life, seeking this important balance.  
One of the most valuable aspects of the NAMI programs is that the facilitators and teachers of these groups must be individuals with the personal life experience of the group they are facilitating. Therefore, although we provide the specific training, they have to be part of the population, at hand. We, at NAMI, do believe this is one of the components that make our groups most successful. Therefore, this new innovative, Balance for Success group, creates leadership positions, hence, the facilitators of the group.  We often times take group members, interested in mentoring others, and train them to facilitate the Balance groups. This in turn, provides a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment.  As for other organizations engaging in similar initiatives, our hope is to spread the word on this Balance group concept to all other, for and non-profit organizations to have them offer the same support, as well. 
In the past two years, while developing and starting the Balance for Success group, we have continuously marketed the group, to make known this resource for individuals in need, as well as, possible future expansion of the group.  In the midst of this ongoing process, we have met with various mental health professionals, religious leaders, academic professionals, etc.…, all in their respective areas, thus developing these important relationships. Furthermore, in July 2013, our affiliate moved our offices into a behavioral health center with the plan to collaborate and expand our services in that way, as well. Our affiliate serves 17 communities all having the potential to offer NAMI programs.  It is our goal, to have NAMI Balance for Success groups offered in a variety of these locations, therefore, expanding our resources and services. 
NAMI, as a national organization, has the proven ability of replicating programs, down to a science.  The Balance for Success Support Group strives to continue this programming signature process.If you build a support group, they will come!  In our hopes and dreams we see the Balance for Success group expanding to colleges, behavioral centers, hospital programs (in and/or outpatient), professional institutions etc… .   As the group focuses on supporting those with college interest, as well as, professionals of all fields, these locations would be a perfect platform for the built in audience at hand. In present times, the pressures of school or professional life bring such tremendous stress, overall.  Factor in mental illness and you have increased potential for trouble.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place for those to share and support one another in this ‘balancing’ act?    
At the Balance for Success group meetings, we do provide an evaluation for the attendees in order to navigate and see results.  With the option of anonymous response, some of the questions are as follows: What are your challenges in balancing work or school with your mental illness?  How has Balance for Success helped you?  The group discussions are always dynamic and there is no doubt that we see great growth with the self-esteem and sense of accomplishment of the attendees, thus far.   Testimonials definitely reflect this.  Furthermore, the fact that many of the attendees return as  ‘regulars’ for months at a time, says it all.  This special group, Balance for Success, helps one to get through, where no other group has gone for this population of individuals.