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About NAMI Missouri


NAMI got its start in 1978 thanks to two moms. As these women visited their sons in the state psychiatric hospital, they often saw one another.  Before too long they began to talk and realized they had a lot in common. Their sons were desperately ill with a disorder that no one seemed to understand.  They soon realized how comforting this sharing and mutual support was for them and they knew there must be others who desperately needed this support.  The first NAMI family support group was born!

A large national organization began to grow from these humble roots. In 1979 several hundred delegates from grassroots family advocacy organizations (such as Schizophrenics Anonymous and the DMDA) gathered in Madison, Wisconsin and founded NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI now has a state organization in every state serving more than 1,100 local affiliates dedicated to improving the quality of lives and recovery for persons with mental illness and their families. We now have more than 500,000 members nationwide.  To learn more about NAMI at the national level, view fact sheets about illnesses, and information about brain research go to the national web site

NAMI Missouri started in St. Louis not long after the establishment of the national organization.  In fact, the first president of NAMI, George Hecker, was an attorney from St. Louis whose daughter suffered schizophrenia.  Today we have approximately 3000 NAMI members in Missouri and nine local NAMI affiliates.

Our mission is to improve the quality of life and recovery for children and adults with mental illness and their families. We accomplish this through support, education, and advocacy.

NAMI Missouri and a few affiliates have professional staff.  However, we are governed by volunteer boards and nearly all the work of NAMI is carried out by trained, skilled grassroots volunteers. This allows us to offer all our support and education programs free of charge. Two of NAMI’s “signature” volunteer programs, the Family-to-Family Course and In Our Own Voice have earned recognition from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  Family-to-Family is now considered an “evidence-based practice.”

NAMI Missouri’s funding comes from varied sources such as member dues, contributions, fundraisers, foundation grants, SAMHSA grants and (by competitive bid) state Department of Mental Health contracts.   We are a private, public interest not-for-profit organization.

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