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NAMI is organized as community affiliates within state associations such as Michigan, which are grouped to form a national organization.
In April 1979, six independent support groups for parents of adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses from around the country joined forces in Madison, Wisconsin, to hold the first conference of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Thirty people from Michigan were among the two hundred eighty four present. In Michigan, this pattern of joining together continued as advocacy groups throughout the state of Michigan formed NAMI Michigan with incorporation on January 10, 1986.
As NAMI Michigan has evolved, interest and membership has extended beyond parents to include other family and friends of people suffering from mental illnesses, professionals involved in treatment and care and most importantly individuals who are diagnosed with mental illness.