HelpLine FAQ

I am in a crisis. I am thinking about suicide. Where can I go for help?

If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, family crisis, or having suicidal thoughts, talking to someone may help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has trained counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t wait. Call Now! 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

You can also call 911, your physician, or visit your local hospital’s emergency room if you believe you are a danger to yourself or others.

Call Emergency Services at your local community services board (local public mental health provider). Click here for the phone number.

Where can I find a support group in my area?

NAMI offers education programs and support groups that can assist a person living with mental illness through the recovery process. Support groups are often listed on your State NAMI’s webpage, or you can contact your local affiliate for more information. Our Affiliates and the families involved with the support groups have been through similar experiences and know of resources in your area to help you cope with your or your family member’s illness.

  • VOCAL (Virginia Organization for Consumers Asserting Leadership)
  • MHAV (Mental Health America of Virginia)
  • DBSA
  • Some community services boards (CSBs) offer support groups. Contact the individual CSB to inquire. See VACSB.

My friend/family member won’t follow recommended treatment. What can I do to make him follow through?

In the United States, noncompliance is not a crime and therefore medication or therapy is not enforceable, except in the case of minors and those who are a danger to themselves or others.
NAMI offers education programs and support groups that can assist consumers and family members/friends that are living with mental illness. Visit the NAMI website for the NAMI group closest to you. The contacts there and the families involved with the support groups have been through similar experiences and know of resources in your area to help you cope with your or your family member’s illness.

In extreme cases where a person may be a danger to themselves or others, a friend or family member can petition the courts to have the person mandated to obtain treatment (inpatient or outpatient). Your Local NAMI will have more information particular to your state laws concerning these procedures, or contact the state office.

Also, review our Guide to Virginia’s Civil Commitment Process.

We also have a resource to use When Someone Doesn’t Want Help

How do I find out about Mandatory Treatment in Virginia?

I don’t know how to cope with my friend/family member who has a mental illness. Can NAMI help me?

NAMI offers education programs and support groups that can assist persons experiencing mental illness and their family members through the recovery process. Your local NAMI Affiliate can provide more information. NAMI affiliate groups are comprised of consumers and family members who may know of resources in your area to help you cope. Use the NAMI Virginia website to locate affiliates.

See on-line information on coping tips for spouses and adult children of people with mental illness.

Refer to our resource on this topic.

I would like to receive a large quantity of NAMI brochures. How can I get those?

As part of NAMI’s mission to educate the public about mental illnesses, NAMI offers a number of brochures and fact sheets on a variety of topics, including particular mental disorders, treatment approaches and commonly-prescribed medications. Large quantities of brochures should be ordered through our on-line NAMI store.

NAMI Virginia can provide brochures in smaller numbers, depending on the number and availability. Contact the NAMI Virginia state office for more information.

I cannot afford my medication/doctor’s fees. Where can I go for financial assistance?

Unfortunately NAMI cannot provide direct financial assistance. However, some pharmaceutical companies offer prescription assistance programs for low-income individuals and families. These programs typically require a doctor’s consent and proof of financial status. They may also require that you have either no health insurance or no prescription drug benefit through your health insurance.

  • Your community mental health care center may offer medication and mental health
    care services on a sliding scale basis. Your local NAMI Affiliate may be
    able to help you locate this center. Visit
    and go to Directory.
  • You can also contact the Virginia Association of Free Clinics; some free
    clinics in Virginia offer mental health medication and outpatient services
    for people who can’t afford them other places. (804) 340-3434

Does NAMI offer any scholarships for college?

Unfortunately NAMI does not provide or sponsor any academic fellowships or scholarships.
As a non-profit organization, NAMI’s work focuses on support, education, advocacy, and research. The following organizations may be able to assist you further.

  • HEATH Resource Center at the George Washington University – The HEATH Center is a national clearinghouse for information on post-secondary education for individuals with disabilities. The Center publishes an annually-updated paper on financial resources. The latest version is Creating Options: 2006 Financial Aid for Individuals with Disabilities, which would include persons with serious mental illnesses.Heath Resource Center 2134 G Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20052-0001
    Web site:
  • Lilly Reintegration Scholarship -To assist persons with schizophrenia, schizophrenia-spectrum disorders and bipolar disorder, acquire educational and vocational skills to reintegrate into society and secure employment.Contact: 800-809-8202
    Lilly Award Secretariat c/o Lilly Schizophrenia Reintegration Scholarship
    734 N. LaSalle St. #1167
    Chicago, IL 60610
    Fax: 312-664-5454
  • There is also a web site called FastWeb. FastWeb lets students create a personalized profile that can be matched against an expansive database of colleges and scholarships. Visit for more information.

Do you have information in Spanish?

See en Español

We are in the process of updating our Crisis Guide in Spanish.

What are side effects/recommended dosage of a specific medication?

Will this medication work better than the one I’m on? Is the combination of medications my doctor prescribed right? Is my dosage too high? Etc.

NAMI’s work focuses on support, education, advocacy, and research. We are not a medical facility nor are we qualified to give medical advice about treatment or medication. Please contact your pharmacist, doctor or mental health care professional for guidance on the correct treatment of your specific situation.

I am/my friend/family member is newly diagnosed with a mental illness. What do I do now?

NAMI offers an array of education and training programs and services for consumers, family members, providers and the general public. These programs draw on the experience of mental health consumers and family members who have learned to live well with their illnesses and are eager to help others, as well as the expertise of mental health professionals and educators. Visit our website to learn more about our education programs. Also consider contacting your Local NAMI Affiliate for listings of support groups and programs in your area. Local NAMI Affiliates can offer information about mental illness, coping strategies and local services that might be able to help you with a specific problem. Affiliates are comprised of individuals and families coping with severe mental illnesses. They have been through similar experiences and can also offer emotional support.

How do I file a complaint against a mental health care facility/professional?

  • Complaints about an individual physician/psychiatrist – If the physician/psychiatrist works for a hospital or agency, you may contact the doctor’s supervisor. You can also file a complaint with the state medical board, or – if he/she is a member – the American Psychiatric Association (APA) (some psychiatrists are members, some are not). The APA might also refer you to its APA District Branch or state psychiatric society.
  • Complaints about other MH Professionals – If employed by a hospital or agency, you may file complaints with the therapist’s Supervisor, the Hospital Ombudsman, or Administrator. Therapists are regulated by their licensing boards (e.g. the state board of health and mental hygiene, counseling, or other licensing board). They may also be members of their professional associations (s/he may be a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, etc.). The State NAMI may have the appropriate number and listing.
  • Abuse or neglect in an institutional setting – DisAbility Law Center of Virginia advocates on behalf of individuals with mental illness who are in institutional settings (such as a jail, correctional facility, or state psychiatric facility); allegations of abuse or neglect are one of their top priorities. Complaints of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment in the hospital setting: Report to the Hospital Ombudsman or Department of Mental Health Human Rights Committee.
  • JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) – Complaint Hotline at (800) 994-6610 — JCAHO accredits hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes, laboratories, outpatient clinics, behavioral health care programs and managed care plans, among others. Complaints should be related to patient rights, care of patients, safety, infection control, medication use, and/or security (and not billing, insurance, or payment disputes.
  • Complaints about a CMHC (community mental health center) – You may file a complaint with the state mental health agency. Medicaid and Medicare recipients with complaints about the CMHCs have the following options: Medicare beneficiaries may contact the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Regional Medicare Office and the state Peer Review Organization; Medicaid beneficiaries may contact the state Medicaid official and perhaps the state Medical Review Board. Your State and Local NAMI Affiliates may be able to assist you as well.
  • Filing Lawsuits: You should seek a private attorney. For more information, see NAMI National Guidelines on How to Find an Attorney. State bar listings may be found at Martin Dale.

I need a doctor/mental health care facility that specializes in a specific disorder. Can NAMI help me?

NAMI does not provide a list of mental healthcare professionals or treatment facilities. However, NAMI does offer a Fact Sheet called Mental Health Professionals: Who they are and How to find one.

See the Mental Health Professional Fact Sheet or click here to download it.

  • Primary Care Physician (PCP) – If you are part of an HMO or other managed care insurance plan, your primary physician can refer you to a specialist or therapist.
  • Your insurance provider – Contact your insurance company or “behavioral health care organization” for a list of mental health care providers included in your insurance plan.
  • District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association – The APA can give you names of APA members in your area. Find your district branch online or consult your local phone book under the headings “district branch” or “psychiatric society.”
  • Psychiatry department at local teaching hospital or medical school.
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has an online directory of clinical social workers. Visit and click on Resources.
  • American Psychological Association can refer to local psychologists by calling 1-800-964-2000.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Mental Health Services has an online database of mental health services and facilities in each state. Visit and click on Services Locator.

Where can I find a list of group homes, residential facilities, or mental health care units that offer specialized care in a specific mental illness?

NAMI is not able to maintain a list of residential facilities or group homes; however, your State or Local NAMI Affiliate may be able to offer some suggestions.

You can also visit the SAMHSA’s Mental Health Services Locator to search a state by state database of mental health care facilities.

You may also wish to refer to the group home/residential facility database provided by the Virginia Department of Mental Health:

The Virginia Department of Social Services Assisted Living database can be accessed here:

Virginia 211:

Where can I find housing?

NAMI does not maintain listings of individual treatment facilities or other housing providers. NAMI State offices and Local Affiliates may be able to offer some suggestions.

In addition, you may wish to contact the local office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They can provide you with information on the Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 811) Program. Ask about how to access a Housing Choice Voucher.

Virginia Supportive Housing is an option for permanent supportive housing for adults with mental health conditions in parts of Virginia.  Visit their website at to learn more.

Where can I go for socialization purposes or for rehabilitation services?

The National Mental Health Information Center of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) has an online, searchable database of facilities and services in each state.

The International Center for Clubhouse Development has an online database of clubhouses. These are places where people who have had mental illness can go to rebuild their lives.

You can also contact VAPRA (Virginia Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association) about the many psychosocial programs (clubhouses) in the state.

Also, many NAMI affiliates know about drop-in programs that are available in local communities.

VOCAL: or (804) 343-1777

Your local Community Services Board (CSB) may operate a drop-in program. Contact the individual CSB for further information.

My friend or family member is in jail due to his/her mental illness. How can we help?

The National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, Inc and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law are designed to deal with the rights of individuals involved with the criminal justice system. DisAbility Law Center of Virginia is Virginia’s state protection and advocacy organization, an independent state agency. These organizations specifically address the needs of incarcerated individuals, whether they are in the correctional system, or hospitalized in a forensic ward.

Refer to this FAQ guide for questions such as how to make sure your loved one has his/her medication.

Seven Steps to Get Help for Your Loved One in Jail 

See this Fact Sheet on the Criminal Justice System for terms, procedures, and information.

Call the disAbility Law Center of Virginia to alert them that someone you know is in jail with a mental illness.

Also, some jails have mental health liaisons with the Community Services Boards (CSB) in Virginia. This is a person whose job it is to coordinate some kinds of mental health services for the person who is in jail who has a mental health problem. Try to contact the CSB to see if there is a liaison working with the jail who can connect with the family member. Or try to contact your family member to let him/her know that there may be a jail liaison to help with accessing services while the person is in jail.

Tips for working with public defenders

Avoiding Arrest During a Mental Health Crisis

Does NAMI offer legal advice, or have a listing of lawyers?

Our national organization, NAMI, has a Legal Center that receives daily calls from members and the public requesting legal assistance. They created a lawyer referral panel as a service to those in need of legal assistance.

NAMI’s Legal Center requires attorneys on the Lawyer Referral Panel to complete questionnaires regarding their specialties, fees, education and liability insurance. Communications to the center remain confidential, as does the attorney information. They do not verify qualifications or credentials of attorneys on our panel, and supplement their listings with the Disability Law Directory of the American Bar Association, the Directory of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Directory and the Directory of Local Pro Bono Programs.

You may contact the NAMI Legal Center by e-mail ( or by calling 703-524-7600. Please furnish your full name, address with zip code and telephone number to help usfind legal aid in your area.

The American Bar Association has an online database of pro-bono attorneys. They also offer guidelines for finding free legal assistance.

For more information, see the online database of pro-bono attorneys and guidelines for finding free legal assistance.

You may also wish to consult the state-by-state listing of attorneys.

Legal Aid
local legal service agencies may assist those unable to pay for legal assistance (limitations often apply, such as no criminal cases). Check your local phone directory under “legal aid” for services.


Virginia State Bar Lawyer Referral Service
Call (804) 775-0808 (metro Richmond)
Statewide and Nationwide Toll-Free Number: (800) 552-7977

University of Richmond Education Rights Clinic
Phone (804) 289-8921

Legal Aid Justice Center Civil Advocacy Program: Mental Health Law

Where can I find statistics about the prevalence of mental illness?

Where can I find information about what my insurance/Medicaid/Social Security benefits will cover?

Questions about insurance coverage should be directed to your provider or to your State Insurance Department.

See the Virginia State Corporation Commission and the Virginia Department of Medicaid Assistance Services (Medicaid and Medicare).

I am in need of health insurance. Can you help me?

Here are some resources to assist you in seeking coverage or accessing health care:

My employer is not treating me unfairly because I have a mental illness. What can I do to fight this?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment; state and local government activities; public accommodations; public transportation; telecommunications; and public services. It was signed into law by President George Bush on July 26, 1990.

See more information here.

I recently moved. How do I go about changing my address? How do I delete my name from NAMI’s mailing list?

Please send your updated information (including full name and street address) to or call (804) 285-8264.

What does the NAMI acronym stand for?

NAMI was founded in 1979 as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. “NAMI” was officially made our corporate name in 1997, after a vote of the membership. This was done after years of discussion that the full name was not person-first language and perpetuated the very stigma we hoped to erase. In 2005 the meaning of the NAMI acronym was changed to National Alliance on Mental Illness to further reduce any stigmatizing language associated with the NAMI name.