History and Philosophy
In Our Own Voice (IOOV) was created as part of NAMI’s initiative to involve consumers in education about serious mental illness. It seemed natural for people with mental illness to draw from the expertise of their lived experiences and to share these experiences with others. NAMI, a support, education, advocacy, and research organization, is dedicated to eradicating mental illness and improving the quality of life for persons affected by mental illness and their families.
IOOV was introduced in 1996 as Living with Schizophrenia. The program gathered momentum quickly. As more people with a variety of illnesses participated, the program’s name was changed to In Our Own Voice. Since then, approximately 2,000 presenters have been trained to conduct the In Our Own Voice presentation. As of the spring of 2007, the program is active in 38 states and over 200,000 audience members have been reached.
In Our Own Voice is dedicated to the support, education, and growth of consumers as presenters. Who better to talk about coping with a mental illness than those in recovery?
Audiences benefit from this type of presentation because it reveals personal experiences of recovery. Audience members learn, first hand, what it means to have a serious mental illness and how the recovery process works.
People who become In Our Own Voice presenters often find that it helps build self-esteem. Presenters may learn new coping strategies from one another and are given hope and strength by finding a community of peers. There are a myriad of ways consumers can grow as In Our Own Voice presenters.
Every presenter is successful in unique ways. Recovery is a continuing process of growth. The presentation is about how to achieve and then stay in recovery with a major mental illness.
The personal and educational components of this program dispel many myths surrounding mental illness. A study completed by Dr. Otto Wahl and Dr. Amy Wood of George Mason University concluded with evidence that there is a significant decrease in stigma against mental illness among audience members after seeing the presentation. An article about the study was published during the summer of 2006 in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal.