NAMI peer group teacher supports others by sharing his story


LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — A non-profit called the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers support for individuals affected by mental health conditions through support, education and advocacy.

Larry Bryant is one of 50 volunteers at NAMI Northern Virginia. He shared his experience surviving anxiety and depression to his peer group, letting them know that they are not alone.

Bryant said, “Most of my life, I have experienced some level [of depression and anxiety], even before I knew what it was and how to define it … partially from my upbringing.”

Memories from his past still resonate with Bryant. He said that as an African American man, it’s hard to avoid the impact of trauma.

“It wasn’t until I started with NAMI in New York City that I really began to understand the processes, the definition of mental illness and its impacts. I discovered how to identify symptoms, how to develop coping strategies and mechanisms and how to build a support system,” said Bryant.

Bryant is a part of the peer support group, helping adults 18 and up living with mental health conditions.

According to Bryant, the virtual transition has been rough trying to help those battling with mental health issues. However, they have seen an increase in their program attendance.

Megan Souza, NAMI Project Coordinator, said, “We also found out that there were more people attending our support groups where people finding out about this but people really needing that support.”

According to Souza, people who struggled attending events prior to the pandemic can now join their YouTube link. Classes range to about 40-50 people, which are some of the biggest she’s seen.

NAMI officials are preparing for their October walk entitled “Mental Health For All” to eliminate the stigma of mental health awareness.

Their helpline is available if people need support (although it is not a crisis line) or resources: 571-458-7310 x 102. Volunteers respond in 24-48 hours.

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