Monika Anderson (MPP/MSW '20) tells us about their work for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New York and how they are committed to speaking up about mental health issues.
Hi everyone, and thank you all so much for being here today.
My name is Monika Anderson, and before I came to grad school, I worked for about 3 years as a case manager working with young adults who suffered serious mental illness.
I absolutely loved the work, I love the interpersonal work, I love doing social work.
But over time I was increasingly frustrated with some of the systems that social work exists within and some of the disconnect that I was seeing between who was making mental health policy, who is implementing it, and who is receiving these services.
And I really wanted to do something about it, but I couldn't figure out what the right career path was.
Unbeknownst to me at the time dual degrees exist.
And I am now a 2nd year dual degree student with the School of Social Work as well.
When I was looking for an internship last year, I was really thinking about agencies that inspire me and that I really like.
I ended up cold emailing the executive director of The New York City Office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, also known as NAMI.
NAMI is the largest grassroots mental health organization in the country.
They are unique in that they serve not only those living with mental illness, but also their family and their loved ones.
To my shock, the executive director responded to me also.
And said that they wanted to have a little bit more focus in public policy and that they might have a spot for me.
NAMI New York City has a full time staff of 12 people, a budget of just over a 1000000 dollars, and they reached 13,000 people last year.
They're an incredible office to see what they can do.
The beauty of working in such a small office also was I got to work all summer directly with the manager of public policy and advocacy.
I got to really help shape what our priorities are, what we wanted to be pushing, what we wanted to be working on.
I did everything from breaking down the data of who is using our services to researching legislation to helping organize a rally to help save a hospital that was at threat of closing.
One of my biggest projects though and what I'm really very proud of is from start to finish I researched, wrote, created, and delivered an entire campaign plan that NAMI-NYC is still using in order to pursue the passage of a bill that is currently stuck in committee in New York.
The bill would require all teachers in New York to receive training in mental health, eating disorders, and behavioral disorders.
And considering 50 percent of all mental illness show signs by the age of 14, this is super important info for teachers to have.
All of my work came together in my last week of my internship when we did what we called an advocacy week.
My supervisor and I traveled throughout New York City.
We hit 3 of the 5 bureaus, we met with almost a dozen elected officials, we talked to them, we told them what NAMI does, we gave them statistics about how many of their specific constituents had used our services, we pitched this education bill to them, asked for their support, and in general we built relationships with the elected officials so that we could keep pursuing good mental health policy.
The New York legislature is not back in session until January.
I wish I had the vacation of New York legislature.
So I'll see what happens with that education bill then.
And I'm looking forward to hearing if it can finally move out of committee.
In the meantime, I'm not sure what I'll do after I graduate.
I kind of like the unknown.
Also one thing I did learn this summer which surprised me is that I really don't like New York City.
So I probably won't end up there.
But what I do know is I want to keep doing work like this.
I want to keep advocating and talking about mental health and really speaking on behalf of organizations that I believe in such as NAMI.
Thank you so much.