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

NAMI was founded in Madison, Wisconsin in 1977 when Harriet Shetler and Beverly Young met for lunch to discuss the challenges they faced as mothers raising a child with schizophrenia.

After two months of conducting a two-person support group, Harriet and Beverly decided to host a dinner meeting with 12 other families who shared similar concerns. That night, the group chose the name Alliance for the Mentally Ill, with the acronym AMI, meaning friends in French.

From the first open meeting, AMI offered information on the availability of community and inpatient services, and on intelligent advocacy procedures to acquire those services for the county.

National AMI evolved from finding many other groups like AMI in various states. A conference was held in Madison in September 1979 to bring these groups together. At the end of the conference, National AMI was firmly established.

In 1981, AMI Dane County hosted a state meeting with other AMI groups across Wisconsin. At the end of this meeting, the state organization of AMI of Wisconsin was founded. Nancy Abraham was elected the first president and 40 years later she continues to be involved with the work of NAMI Dane County.