Who We Are

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NAMI Dane County is the founding chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by mental illness.


The mission of NAMI Dane County is to provide education, support, and advocacy for people affected by mental illness in Dane County. 


NAMI Dane County will be the thought and knowledge leader on mental illness, ensuring a stigma-free community where all people affected by mental illness find the help, hope, and support they need.

what we do

NAMI Dane County relies on gifts and contributions to support our important work:

We provide peer-led education and support programs to help people affected by mental illness get the support and information they need to better understand mental illness and navigate the mental health system.

We provide community education and outreach to reduce stigma and help the general public better understand mental illness.

We advocate at the local, state, and national levels for increased funding and better access to quality mental health services.

We promote public awareness through events and activities such as NAMIWalks to reduce stigma and encourage understanding.


Our History

From left: Founders Nancy Abraham, Bev Young, and Harriet Shetler

In 1977, three mothers, Harriet Shetler, Bev Young and Nancy Abraham, each with a son with schizophrenia, met to discuss the challenges they shared raising a child with serious mental illness. The women decided to assemble a group of family members and friends of persons with mental illness who shared similar concerns.

On April 13, 1977, 12 people met at the Madison Cuba Club Restaurant and formed the Alliance for the Mentally Ill. This name was chosen partly because of its beautiful acronym, AMI, which means “friend” in French. The 12 people present were: Bev Young, Harriet Shetler, Bud and Jeanne Gourlie, Betty Gulesserian, Don and Kathy Kreul and Mike Kreul, Ben and Joan Lenske and Jeff Lenske, and Nancy Abraham.

Through the efforts of Don Kreul, AMI was incorporated as a 501(c)3 not for profit corporation in November 1977, with Bev Young serving as the organization’s first Board President.

In September 1979, with the assistance of Roger Williams from University of Wisconsin-Extension (UW-Extension), AMI Dane County organized a national conference at The Wisconsin Center in Madison. The title of the conference was “Advocacy for Persons with Chronic Mental Illness: Building a Nationwide Network.” Sponsors included UW-Extension Mental Health, UW-Extension Health Policy Education, and the Dane County Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

The organizers hoped for as many as 50 people but in fact 284 representatives from 59 groups (representing 29 states) attended. Among them were mental health professionals, including Dr. Herbert Pardes, then director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

By the end of the conference, a national group, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) was formed. Today, NAMI is based in Arlington, Virginia and is comprised of hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.

The Alliance for the Mentally Ill (AMI) of Wisconsin, an affiliate of NAMI, was incorporated in 1981.