On an unprecedented sunny President’s day in Olympia, WA, the 2018 NAMI Lobby day took place beneath brilliant blue skies and the impressive shadow of our State Capitol’s legislative buildings. We met first in the Temple Beth Hatfiloh, just a few blocks from the Capitol’s main campus, and heard from NAMI Washington staff as well as Rep. Roger Goodman (45th Legislative District).

After breaking up into groups of our districts’ constituents we walked to the John A. Chubert building to meet with our first legislative aid for Sen. David Frockt (47th LD). Due to time constraints, I was unable to meet with my own district representatives, so I tagged along with district 47 to listen and observe. Our group, made up of individuals who have all been impacted by mental health one way or another, gave impassioned support of the bills that NAMI WA is backing.

NAMI WA is supporting a number of bills, most of which are currently in the senate. You can read NAMI Washington's Talking Points on eash of these in our Advocacy Toolkit! You can track all of these bills here.

Beyond the importance of these bills (and they are very important) and the legislative process that passes them, what struck me most about NAMI lobby day was how many people turned out to advocate for mental health. Most of the people who showed up aren’t paid for their advocacy. Plenty of them have no professional connection to mental health at all. And yet, here was around 150 people all decked out with NAMI’s lime green scarfs converging on the State Capitol to advocate fiercely for mental health legislature.

Mental health impacts everyone. It is inescapable. Ourselves, our loved ones, our idols, our politicians, our communities; someone, somewhere that you know and love has been touched personally by mental health. Whatever their connections to mental health, the people who came out to NAMI lobby day and all those who supported it from afar were passionate and powerful. It felt amazing to sit in a room filled with individuals who shared the same cause and who had come from all over the state to speak up about their own, very personal experiences.

I am humbled by the courage of all those who shared their stories on Monday. The stigma around mental health is still very real in our society, and to sit down with politicians and strangers and break the silence on why these bills matter on a deeply personal level is an act of bravery.

Whatever the outcome of this legislation, I know that the people in my state fought hard for these bills. NAMI lobby day was a powerful thing to witness. I hope that this is a form of unapologetic bravery that continues to grow in the face of opposition and misinformation about the needs of those with mental health conditions. I hope that our presence in Olympia impacts lawmakers to do the right thing. And I hope that someday soon, there will be no silence to break.

Representing NAMI Seattle staff at lobby day from left to right: Lyndsay (Development and Operations Manager), Gideon (Admin Assistant), Katie (Program Manager)

Written by Gideon C. Elliott (Admin Assistant), photos taken by Katie and a kind stranger in Olympia!