Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NAMI Helpline

November Community Service Hours - 8 hours

Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours - 22 hours

***UPDATED as of 12/14/16***
December Community Service Hours - 9 hours

Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours - 31 hours

Strangely, it felt great to return to New Orleans after Thanksgiving break. Not strange because I expected to be unexcited or sad to return. It was strange because I have only lived in New Orleans for a few months. I enjoyed being home in North Carolina, seeing family, and hanging out with old friends. But, by the end of the week away, I was ready to head back to the Crescent City. Over the last few months, beyond just getting into a routine, I have truly built great relationships within the Pharmacology program and in my community involvement. My work with NAMI New Orleans this fall has been a huge part of that. 

Early in November, I met with the Helpline Coordinator and other volunteers interested in assisting NAMI with their Helpline. During this orientation, we learned about the purpose of the Helpline, that being to assist callers in reaching appropriate resources such contacts for finding housing, establishing a provider or counselor, or joining a support group. We received a guidebook that covers the majority of the information we will likely need to assist callers. I was unaware of all the ways in which NAMI helps individuals living with mental illness in the New Orleans community. 

Just before Thanksgiving break, I was able to volunteer individually my first day. I am still learning the basics of the help line, the hardest of which may be just answering the telephone and transferring calls; however, I am really excited about the potential of this volunteer experience to help an incredibly underserved group within the New Orleans community. During my first day, I learned that NAMI resources are generally for individuals living with mental illness; however, the Helpline often receives calls from family members or friends of individuals living with dementia and developmental disorders. Despite NAMI resources being directed towards individuals living with mental illness, Helpline volunteers can assist these callers with reaching the appropriate supportive organizations or identifying overlapping resources that may be helpful, such as contacts for housing, obtaining health insurance, or establishing a provider. In addition to that, I worked on cleaning the formatting of the housing resources document that the Helpline volunteers send via email to any callers seeking to establish affordable housing with available support for those living with mental illness. I look forward to sharing my ongoing experiences with NAMI and New Orleans in general.

Monday, October 31, 2016


Although I had been helping out NAMI here and there to this point in the semester by putting together folders for team captains for their large fundraiser, NAMIWalks New Orleans, and cleaning up after a kickoff event, October was finally here. NAMIWalks was here. The fundraiser took place on Saturday, October 14th. I woke up bright and early to help out with set-up of the event. This second line fundraiser took place in Audubon Park. We set-up tables and tents for all of the corporate sponsors who donated to NAMI and were to have display tables for their products or organizations at the event. Walkers and other NAMI supporters began showing up around 9AM or 10AM. The amount of support from the community for NAMI in creating a stigma free community regarding mental health conditions was extraordinary. The second line was lead by the New Birth Brass Band and the Pussyfooters dance/marching group (pictured below). The event included a stroll around the park, jazz music, red beans and rice and jambalaya, and the opportunity to interact with other community members dedicated to increasing awareness and changing stigma associated with mental health conditions. I helped clean-up after the event by helping other volunteers take down the numerous tables and tent we had set up earlier in the morning. The most inspiring takeaway from the event was not just the atmosphere at the event but also learning that the New Orleans community had very much so been supportive of NAMI in its efforts to assist its community as displayed by over $100,000 being raised through this fundraiser. In November, I will continue my work with NAMI by beginning to volunteer with the helpline. The NAMI helpline is available to the New Orleans community to provide community members with assistance related to mental health education and treatment or support resources available to them or their family members. I look forward to continuing to work with NAMI, building relationships with both other volunteers and community members in need of assistance in reaching resources for mental health conditions. 

October Community Service Hours - 8 hours

Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours - 14 hours

Friday, September 30, 2016

Settling In

As September ends, I definitely feel myself settling into New Orleans. My community work with NAMI New Orleans has certainly made me feel like I am becoming a part of this community. As I previously mentioned, NAMI’s big fundraiser for this fall, NAMIWalks New Orleans, is a second line, which will be October 15th. This month we had a preliminary meeting with NAMI leadership to discuss what opportunities there are for volunteers at the event. We were provided maps of the event, descriptions of volunteer opportunities, and associated upcoming fundraisers in community restaurants and bars. It feels amazing to connect with others in the community who share a similar interest in promoting mental health awareness and decreasing stigma. I will be helping primarily with the set-up of the event bright and early but I anticipate helping with a variety of other opportunities such as serving New Orleans’ famous red beans and rice to event attendees or encouraging and providing water to walkers during the event. I have helped publicize the event by putting up posters at my apartment complex and at my favorite study spot in New Orleans, Zotz cafĂ©. I am contacting the appropriate Tulane university personnel to see if I can be approved to put up posters in university buildings, such as Hutchinson Memorial where we often have class. Also, I will be attending a few fundraising events leading up to the event in the coming two weeks to continue helping NAMI New Orleans hopefully reach their goal of raising $160,000, which will serve as funds for many of their great support programs provided throughout the year.

September Community Service Hours – 2 hours

Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours – 6 hours

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In my mind I'm gone to...New Orleans? The James Taylor classic, "Carolina in My Mind," often was playing in the background of many defining experiences during my time as a Tar Heel in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Coined as the "southern part of heaven," Chapel Hill had been my home since 2009, and I can verify the existence of its own pearly gates. The Tar Heel state itself has been my home for all 25 years. Yet, my dream of becoming a physician directed me to Tulane University's Masters Program in Pharmacology and a studio apartment on St. Charles Avenue more than 800 miles away from "home." 

Nevertheless, I could not be happier with my decision to attend Tulane for this program so far. The faculty and staff have been extremely helpful, class is going well, and I truly feel like this year in this program is providing me exceptional preparation for medical school. Tulane's location in New Orleans is just an added bonus. With a community emphasis on service since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has made finding ways to give back to the community very easy. I have decided to do my part by helping with something very important to me, mental health awareness.

Having had family members struggle with mental illness and experiencing the ongoing effects of those associated tragedies, dedicating myself toward increasing community mental health awareness is less a decision and more a desire. I previously worked as a research assistant on a project, which recruited members from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in North Carolina for focus groups to learn about their acute behavioral health care experiences. NAMI New Orleans has accepted me as a volunteer and quickly incorporated me in the great work the organization does in this community. I am initially helping with the logistics of their major fundraiser, NAMIWalks New Orleans, a second line parade to be held on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 at 10AM (ASK ME MORE ABOUT IT). Last week, I helped pull together folders for captains and clean-up after NAMI's successful fundraiser kickoff event. My next goal is to recruit several of my peers from my program and captain my own NAMIWalks team. With roughly six weeks until the event date, there is much to do, and I will be joining an event committee focusing on one of its many moving parts to help NAMI reach its goal of raising $160,000 this year. Internet, I am very much looking forward to continuing to update you about my New Orleans experiences through my own little spin-off of James Taylor's classic. Have a good night.

August Community Service Hours - 4 hours
Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours - 4 hours