Skip navigation Resource Center to Promote Acceptance, Dignity and Social Inclusion About Us |  FAQs |  Contact Us 
ADS Center bridge over water logo

Toll-Free: 1-800-540-0320

Training Teleconferences
Information Update
Campaigns & Programs
Take Action
Campaign for Social Inclusion
Mental Health Facts
My Story
In The News
Join our Listserv
Link to Us
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 6/22/2012

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


In Our Own Voice
Arlington, Virginia

Start Date

Brief Description
In Our Own Voice (IOOV) is a unique informational outreach program, developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), that offers insight into the recovery that is possible for people with severe mental illnesses. The program aims to meet the need for consumer-run education initiatives, to set a standard for quality education about mental illness from those who have been there, to offer genuine work opportunities for consumers, to encourage self-confidence and self-esteem in presenters, and to focus on recovery and the message of hope.

Target audiences include: consumers, families, students, law enforcement personnel, mental health service providers, professionals, faith communities, and all people wanting to learn about mental illnesses. IOOV shows how people with serious mental illnesses cope with the realities of their disorders while recovering and reclaiming productive lives with meaning and dignity. Additionally, the program provides a safe way for consumers to share the ups and downs of their recovery and to learn from others.

Studies have shown that contact between people who have mental illnesses and the general public is the most effective way to reduce the discrimination and stigma associated with mental illnesses (Corrigan & Penn, 1999). An article published in the peer-review Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal concludes that: "There is strong evidence that NAMI's In Our Own Voice consumer education presentation is effective as a strategy for increasing audience knowledge about mental illness and improving attitudes towards those who experience psychiatric disorders." (Wood & Wahl, 2006)

IOOV is a solution to the challenge of stigma, as it encourages consumers to become actively involved in education about severe mental illnesses. IOOV provides a venue where people with mental illnesses can speak about recovery and the issues surrounding it.

Presentations are offered by people with psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and other severe mental illnesses. Trained presenters give personal testimony about their journeys with mental illness through dark days, acceptance, treatment, coping skills, successes, hopes, and dreams. The presentations consist of a video, personal testimony, and a discussion period. These presentations have helped to enrich the audiences understanding of how people with these serious disorders cope with the reality of their illnesses while recovering and reclaiming productive lives.

The presentations vary in length from 60 to 90 minutes, and they offer an opportunity for dialogue between the audience and the presenters.

Since the inception of the program in 1996 and through the spring of 2008, more than 2,000 presenters have been trained to conduct presentations, over 100,000 audience members have been reached, and the program is active in 37 of the 50 States.

IOOV must be coordinated through the NAMI State or affiliate organization. Contact your NAMI State office or local affiliate about presentations in your area. The contact information for your local affiliate or State office can be accessed at

To learn more about the IOOV program, access the IOOV Web site at For further information or questions, contact Sarah OBrien, IOOV Program Director, at or via telephone at 703-524-7600.


Adobe PDF™ and MS Office™ formatted files require software viewer programs to properly read them. Click here to download these FREE programs now.

This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.