In some societies, the need for accessible mental health care often goes unmet. Navigating a mental health care system, a hospital stay, or even just finding an affordable therapist can be difficult for individuals and families.
One of the best ways to fill this need is to offer a place where people can visit for help at any time. Nami Sarasota Manatee He did exactly that. Two new service centers have opened located in North and South Sarasota County where anyone 18 and older can get free mental health support in the form of groups, wellness classes, arts, music, free nutrition resources, lunch, and more.
NAMI Sarasota CEO Colin Thayer says the program that operates out of the centers is called “You’re not alone(or YANA, for short) has been around since 2021. YANA is a peer- and volunteer-led program designed to support participants in their individual paths to mental wellness.
The program was funded largely through donations, including money raised through this year’s Giving Challenge. The NAMI Reception Center in South County held an open house on April 25 to welcome the community.
“We have ongoing groups and activities all the time for free, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at both centers,” Thayer says. “The accessibility, convenience, and free nature of the centers is a reminder to the community that mental health is for everyone, at any stage of life. You don’t need a formal diagnosis in order to participate and benefit from the center.”
Thayer adds that community reception centers also help continue to break the stigma surrounding mental health care, and hopefully produce a healthier community in the future.
Classes at reception centers cover topics such as life assurance skills, healthy coping mechanisms, art, music, cooking, wellness and more. Musical acts are invited occasionally, as are therapists from Centrestone And CASL. A free lunch is served daily at Meals on Wheels. Thayer says both sites have backyards where she hopes to plant gardens so members can enjoy the space.
Ultimately, she explains, delivery sites are safe places where people can feel welcome, supported and engaged.
For those who require higher-end or specialist mental health care, NAMI staff are present at both centers to expand resources, whether it’s inpatient care, therapy, or establishing a primary care physician.
“We also hope to extend a few NAMI classes, such as peer-to-peer mental health courses,” Thayer says. “These are eight-week sessions where members can learn about the relationship between mental and physical health from people who have been there as well.”
YANA and NAMI, two other demographics, hope to reach out to Sarasota’s youth this year. The rise in mental illness among teens nationwide has been designated a national health crisis by Centers for Disease Control. This is partly due to loneliness, negative interactions on social media, and Lack of community support.
Two programs implemented by NAMI employees include Family Peer Navigation, in which employees help families navigate the behavioral health care system for their children. The other, called Family Café, hosts free monthly support groups for the whole family to attend local public schools. Student Café, an extension of the family café, takes place during the school’s lunch hour.
“Unfortunately, the rates of children who are Becker-style and undergoing hospital stays continue to increase,” Thayer says. “While both can be critical to starting treatment quickly, the level and quality of care can decline once they are released.
“We’re here to help, one family and one person at a time,” she adds. “You’re not alone.”
NAMI’s North County Reception Center is located at 240B S. Tuttle Ave. , Sarasota. The South County Reception Center is located at 1680 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite C, Venice. For more information, click here Or call North County at (941) 961-8857 or South County at (941) 9880-993.