30 Sep Meet Gabi Augustamar: Community Resource Coordinator
Who is Gabi?
Gabi’s pronouns are She/They
Gabi is the Community Resource Coordinator at NAMI Seattle, who grew up in Washington and went to college in Portland, Oregon. They have an interest in mental health, specifically within Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities, and devote their time to finding resources to help people affected by mental illness through NAMI. Gabi supervises NAMI Seattle’s Helpline, which connects people in need of help to mental health resources and information in the Seattle area. Gabi’s long-term goal is to become a therapist after they finish school, so that they can continue to help and support people in the Seattle mental health community through their work.
Gabi was diagnosed with anxiety by the age of seven. Their personal experience with anxiety over the years has been greatly improved by learning the coping mechanisms and ways to deal with it that work best for them. It’s no surprise then that Gabi wants to do what they can to make resources available for others in their community, particularly in local BIPOC communities.
“A really intense thing when you have mental illness is being able to find resources that fit your needs.” Gabi explained, “Over the last few months, I’ve seen the various requests that have come through our Helpline. There have been numerous emails from concerned family members who are unsure where to begin when it comes to supporting their loved one living with a mental illness. Other times, it is someone who feels as if they’ve exhausted every mental health resource out there. As the Helpline supervisor, I try to meet people where they are at. It takes courage and vulnerability to reach out for help and I want people to feel seen and heard when they contact the NAMI Seattle Helpline.” When we asked them to elaborate on what they saw as the intersection between mental health needs and BIPOC communities, Gabi said, “I have a personal interest in supporting mental health in those communities, and it’s important to me that our affiliate is doing that.”
Gabi on mental illness support for BIPOC communities
A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as early adverse life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse, and experiences related to other ongoing medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, which often disproportionately negatively affect BIPOC individuals due to disparate access to treatment.
BIPOC individuals, particularly Black Americans, have poorer overall reported health and health outcomes from treatment than do Whites. Disparities for mental health care are inequalities that stem from access to good health care providers, different insurance coverages, and discrimination by health care professionals. Most of the disparities come from use and access of programs and health care. For the BIPOC individuals that do seek mental health treatment, they oftentimes, like Gabi, encounter difficulties in seeking culturally competent treatment.
However, recognizing the gap in services is one of the reasons why Gabi is so excited about being one of the newest members of NAMI Seattle’s team. “Being a Black person who lives with mental illness is why I’m so passionate about this work,” Gabi says. “A lack of understanding from mental health providers about my experience as a Black person has made it difficult for me to feel comfortable receiving care. As a Black, queer person there is another layer of misunderstanding from providers. It has been difficult to find Black therapists that are covered by my insurance. Peer support groups have been beneficial to my healing process!”
Gabi mentioned the BIPOC support group NAMI Seattle provides that allows a safe space for BIPOC individuals to express their unique mental health concerns in a supportive environment.
“There aren’t many mental health support groups in the United States for BIPOC communities, so being able to have others from outside of Seattle help out is really important,” said Gabi.
Gabi says there are many misconceptions about living with mental illness – one of them is not being able to live a fulfilling life. People with mental health conditions are still able to live a fulfilling life just like anyone else with the right support, adequate resources, and community. For Gabi, living a fulfilling life means finding topics they are passionate about, surrounding themself with people who support their healing process, and focusing on self and community care.
Gabi’s story is just one of countless that have gone through NAMI’s doors. If you or anyone you know are interested in mental illness and would like to seek help or volunteer work, please reach out to NAMI Seattle. If you would like to donate, you can do so by clicking here, all funds will be used towards NAMI Seattle programs making them free of cost to participants.
Or, to seek help for yourself or a loved one, reach out to NAMI Seattle’s mental health referral and information Helpline to get connected to the support and resources you need:
Call or Text: (425) 298-5315
By Danny Lash, Christopher Chhay, Lina Tadesse, David Pasero, Max Fomin, University of Washington Bothell School of Business with Laura Umetsu’s Business Writing & Ethics class.
And special thanks to Jasmine Bager for her work coaching students on storytelling. Jasmine writes for a variety of publications, including TIME, Teen Vogue, and Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation of Journalism on issues ranging from women’s rights to art to fashion. See Stories by Jasmine Bager : Contently.