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What drives the National Alliance on Mental Illness: Kimberly Carter shares her family's story in our You Are Not Alone series

If left unchecked, any mental illness scenario can lead to someone taking their own life.

GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio — During national suicide prevention month, you probably heard about the organization NAMI, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It's the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization.

Now, we're showing you the reason why this organization is such a force because of the people who run it. 

Meet Kimberly Carter, the director of NAMI Geauga County.

"We're not clinicians, we're not therapist, we're not doctors. We are people who are touched by mental health one way or another," she explains about the organization.

Carter is a mother who knows first hand about the struggles of people who come to NAMI because of her own son.

"On his 21st birthday, he decided to go off all his medications, and so for the next year he spiraled downward and his life grew increasingly out of control."

Her son suffers from bipolar disorder, and anosognosia -- or a lack of understanding the severity of the state of his mental health. Once his condition became too severe, Carter made a mother's hardest decision: To let go and force him to help himself. She showed us the difference in his appearance over just a few years, and the last mugshot he has.

"These are his mug shots. He was arrested during this period of time every 11.6 days," she says, holding up a paper with each picture on it. "One of those times you'll see he has a collar around his neck because he was hit by a car. In November when he was arrested, this is what he looked like."

Credit: Kimberly Carter
Kimberly Carter's son

Her son, who are not naming, has been homeless, and in and out of prison. Carter uses her pain to try and help others through mental health education. 

"That's my passion with NAMI, because advocacy, policy change, getting to the root cause, is so important to me," she explains.

Specifically, NAMI Geauga County also offers services for veterans with PTSD, addiction treatment, even legal representation for someone in a legal crisis that struggles with their mental health. 

If left unchecked, all these scenarios can lead to someone taking their own life.

"It's not hypothetical, it's not theory, I didn't go to school to learn about this. I am living it," Carter says.

To learn more about NAMI Geauga County CLICK HERE. To help support NAMI overall, NAMI Geauga County is holding their annual NAMI Walk to end suicide on Saturday, Oct. 9. It will be at Chardon High School at 9 a.m., but can also be walked virtually from anywhere. If you'd like to register or donate, click HERE.

If you are contemplating suicide, there is help. For 24/7 assistance, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at (800) 273-8255, or text text HOME TO 741-741. That is a national crisis text line you can use to get an answer right away.

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Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated story on March 24, 2021.