This past October, NAMI NC recognized Eileen Silber with the “President’s Award” for her work with NAMI. NAMI Guilford is going to do a series of interviews with NAMI Volunteers, and we decided that our first would be with Mrs. Silber.
Eileen first became involved with NAMI in 1983. Among the MANY roles she has fulfilled during her time include: 6 years on NAMI Guilford Board, 2 terms on NAMI NC Board, one of those terms as president, one term on the National board. She also served on the Guilford County Board for mental health regarding Mental Health, Substance Use, and Developmental/Intellectual Disability Services. She has facilitated Family Support Group and taught Family-to-Family (at least 6 times) and there are participants of her groups that continue to stay in touch with Mrs. Silber. She is also involved with “Friends of NAMI”, a group that evolved at the time that NAMI NC was in serious trouble financially a few years ago. She and her husband also established an endowment fund for NAMI NC. It is easy to see why she received the “President’s Award”.
The reason she became involved with NAMI is that she has two children, a son and a daughter who have serious mental illnesses, and even though they were an educated family, (her husband was a doctor) with resources, they were “shell shocked” like most families when the diagnosis first showed up. NAMI helped provide them with direction, and they were able to navigate the many challenges that come with a family member having a mental health diagnosis. She said she, “was eternally grateful, and needed to pass on what she received to other families”. She also greatly valued the “community” of friends she developed from her involvement, people who understood what this meant to a family. She recalled someone asking,'” how are things at your house?” – versus, “how is your family member?” A mental health diagnosis affects the whole family, and that question allowed you to stop and think about your family, versus just the person who had a diagnosis.
She is aware of what an impact something like Family-to-Family can have and hopes that others will continue to come forward to help with work, so that NAMI can be there for other families.