Wendy Jennings, NAMI Four County’s executive director, has a passion for helping family members and others better understand what living with a mental health issue really means.
For her, it’s more than a part-time job. It’s an extension of her lived experience as the mother of a son with autism who has battled addiction as well as mental health problems. Those problems have gotten him in legal trouble and made it necessary for Jennings to learn as much as possible about behavioral health disorders, their treatment and how to advocate for a loved one.
“Resources for my son seemed to be limited,” she explained. “The judicial system was uncooperative, and my pleas for help seemed to be met with little to no compassion or went unheard because of my son’s complicated situation.
“Through NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), I was able to make connections and better advocate for my son. More importantly, I felt my voice was being heard when I shared my experiences. I felt hopeful for the first time.”
Since then, Jennings has gotten involved with the local NAMI affiliate, NAMI Four County, with the goal of learning all that she could to help family members who have a loved one who struggles with mental health problems.
She explained that NAMI offers free mental health education classes as well as support groups where people with similar experiences can learn from one another.
“Sharing and learning with people who understand what you are going through is powerful,” she said. Mental illness can be isolating not only for the person with the illness, but the entire family, and NAMI offers a network of support.
Jennings said, “As the first executive director of NAMI Four County, it is my goal to erase stigma, build community awareness, and, most of all, bring hope to local families and individuals living with a mental health condition.”
A Bryan native, she attended the University of Toledo and worked in restaurant and retail management before relocating to Metro Atlanta where she raised three sons and worked as operations manager at Apparel Manufacturing.
Twenty-five years, later she returned to northwest Ohio to manage family businesses.
Jennings lives in Defiance and has worked as a certified vocational support specialist for Partners in Employment for the past five years. She currently is president of the Bryan ARTS club and serves as vice-president of Never Let Go Ministries board of directors.
Persons who want to know more about NAMI Four County can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested can also visit NAMI Four County’s new website at www.namifourcounty.org, or follow NAMI Four County on social media on Facebook @namifourcounty, Instagram @nami4county or Twitter @nami4county.