How We Talk About NAMI

Who Is NAMI?

Boilerplate is standard language used to describe an organization. It is an "About Us" paragraph that is included on press releases to inform people about what NAMI is if they are unfamiliar.

At NAMI, we use the following language to describe who we are. Feel free to copy this language and adapt it for your NAMI State Organization or NAMI Affiliate:

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.


Writing For NAMI

NAMI has a checklist you should use to help you frame your article. Always ask yourself the following questions before writing:

  • Why am I writing this?
  • Who’s my audience (persona), and what’s their emotional state?
  • What outcome do I want this piece to achieve?
  • Did I give the reader a conversion (the opportunity to take further action)?

Refer to our NAMI Editorial Guide for more information about writing for NAMI.


Voice and Tone

Our Voice

NAMI’s voice is casual, friendly and conversational. We are a “friendly guide” to our Web visitors, leading them through difficult and intimidating topics and breaking them down in a language that they can understand. We educate when appropriate and act as a shoulder to lean on when someone needs support. We aim to inspire hope and encourage engagement.

NAMI’s voice is:

  • Authoritative but not condescending
  • Friendly but not patronizing
  • Casual and conversational but not sloppy
  • Helpful but not overbearing
  • Positive, when possible, but realistic

Our Tone

There’s a difference between voice and tone. You always speak with the same voice, but your tone changes. You might speak in one tone to your closest friends and family but in a different tone with your boss. Your tone also changes depending on the emotional state of the person you’re addressing. You wouldn’t use the same tone of voice with someone who’s upset as you would with someone who’s laughing.

When you’re writing, keep in mind the audience you’re writing for. Also, consider the reader’s state of mind. Is she relieved to finally have a diagnosis? Mad that she can’t log in? Confused about how to take a NAMI education class? Adjust your tone accordingly.

We’re experts, but we make it simple.

We wouldn’t say: An individual who lives with depression should seek treatment through talk therapy and medications.

We would say: Therapy and medication can help you manage symptoms of depression.

We take tough topics and make them easy to understand.

We wouldn’t say: Individuals with disabilities, including mental illness, deserve fair and equal treatment in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are two federal laws that prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities on the job. Many states also have laws that protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination and unfair treatment at work.

We would say: People with mental illness deserve fair treatment at work. The Americans with Disabilities Act is just one federal law that prohibits discrimination at the workplace. Many states also have laws that protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination and unfair treatment at work.


NAMI-Specific Language

The names of NAMI programs, events and happenings should be consistent. Here are some common ones to keep in mind:

The national office of NAMI is simply referred to as NAMI, not NAMI National. When talking to the public, it’s preferred to say “your local NAMI.” When talking to the field, NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates are the proper format.

When referring to the NAMIWalks there should be no space between "NAMI" and "Walks." If you have already used NAMIWalks in your document, you may later refer to all of the "walks" if necessary. However, "walks" should be lowercase if it is not accompanied by "NAMI."

NAMI Education Programs
The first mention of a NAMI signature program should always include NAMI. It does not need to in later mentions, except for NAMI Homefront. Due to specifics of the copyright, NAMI Homefront must always include “NAMI” as part of the program name, even in later mentions. Example: NAMI Family-to-Family and NAMI Homefront have helped thousands of families. Family-to-Family is a remarkable program. NAMI Homefront is also a remarkable program.

NAMI National Convention
This is the way the name of NAMI’s convention should be written. Not NAMI Convention or National NAMI Convention or NAMI Annual convention. You may use "convention" when you are not using the official name of the event. Example: The attendees had a great time at the NAMI National Convention and plan to attend another convention in the future.


Words to Avoid

Try to avoid these words and phrases:

  • Consumer. When referring to a person who has a mental illness say “a person with.”
  • Schizophrenic (or any term using an illness as an identifier). When referring to a person who has a mental illness say “a person with.”
  • Brain disorder
  • Brain disease
  • Patient (unless it is appropriate in a medical context, such as in a study or describing the relationship with a doctor). You can usually replace this term with "individual" or "person."

Help Center

Visit our Help Center to learn about and share knowledge on a variety of topics, including NAMI 360, membership management, the NAMI Convention, Helpline FAQ, class reporting and more.