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NAMI Wake County was founded in March 1987 under the name “Friends and Families in Alliance for the Mentally Ill” (FFAMI). The original agent was Mary Virginia Welles, whose daughter suffered from mental illness. There were five family members on the original Board of Directors: G. E. Anderson, Louise Fisher, Jack Montren, Mary Benyas Ross, and Mary Virginia Welles. In November 1989 the name was changed to Wake County Alliance for the Mentally Ill (WC AMI). As stated in the original By-Laws, the mission was as follows:

To provide support for mentally ill persons and the families of the mentally ill. For the mentally ill: To advocate for the means through which they can find relief from the anxieties, fears and frustrations in coping with everyday problems. To advocate for the means through which these persons can gain some constructive meaning and purpose for their lives. For the Families: To assist the families and friends with the grief and frustrations of dealing with the mentally ill family members through emotional support, education, and sharing of information.

In 1998, the name was changed from WC AMI to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Wake County to reflect the naming and identity standards of NAMI National. Since our conception, our organization’s mission has remained consistent. One notable exception is that people with a diagnosed mental illness, or consumers, who were once excluded from serving in either a membership or governing capacity of NAMI Wake, are now welcomed as full members of the organization and serve on the Board of Directors.

Over the past 30 years, membership to the organization has grown as we continue to advocate for peer-led and lived experience approach to programs and services. Our advocacy efforts have included long efforts to keep Dorthea Dix open, supporting funding for group homes, sitting on local committees to ensure the rights of those living with a mental illness are at the forefront, and removing an offensive Halloween costume from local stores. These efforts have led us to be part of solutions, such as the development of the Crisis Intervention Team in partnership with Alliance and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.


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