Who We Are
We are an affiliate of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and of NAMI New Jersey, serving the Mercer County area.
We provide education and support for individuals and families affected by mental illness, and advocate for lives of quality and respect, without stigma or discrimination.
The Future We Seek:
Families and people with mental illness will be able to realize their full potential in a respectful and understanding society.
- There will be no stigma attached to mental illness.
- There will be no difference in treatment and insurance coverage between mental and physical illness.
- All people with mental illness and their families will have complete access to the most effective support and services.
- An empathetic environment will allow people with mental illness to be full participants in the community.
- Families will be better qualified to help.
- Every person with mental illness will be able to live and work as independently as possible, and will enjoy an enhanced quality of life.
- Mercer County will provide a model for an effectively functioning mental health system to serve consumers and families.
NAMI Mercer had humble beginnings but a great destiny. In the early 1980s, several families began to meet regularly to support each other in the task of coping with mental illness in a loved one. In those days, parents were readily blamed for their children’s illnesses; stigma was a major problem; and parents had very little information and no say in treatment.
These family members became the Mercer Alliance for the Mentally Ill (MAMI), which was incorporated in 1984 with Gloria Blumenthal as president. Tom and Chomy Garces later started an office in their home and began to offer classes for families, the Just Friends social group for people affected by mental illness, a helpline and education meetings, all of which are still core offerings of NAMI Mercer.
The families set to work to find group housing for their ill relatives and eventually raised enough money to buy two properties for this purpose. These were handed over to Catholic Charities in 2005. MAMI held regular public meetings in the Lawrence Library to raise awareness and provide information. A team of volunteers also began working with the staff of Trenton Psychiatric Hospital to monitor conditions, a service that continues to this day.
In 1995, MAMI opened its Lawrenceville office on Lakedale Drive and was run for six years by the Garces, who volunteered fulltime between them as counselor, advisor, office manager, press secretary and accountant.
In 2001, a banner year, a major grant for office support came in from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Chomy Garces received the New Jersey Psychiatric Association’s Citizen of the Year Award and a new program for children, “Visions for Tomorrow,” was launched. NAMI Mercer (renamed as a county affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness) received the national organization’s Outstanding Local Affiliate Award for its effective public education programs and strong volunteer commitment.
In January 2002, NAMI Mercer moved to paid, professional staff and its present headquarters in Lawrence Commons.
In 2012, NAMI Mercer celebrates its 28th anniversary, a momentous occasion for Mercer County families whose loved ones are affected by mental illness.