In a time when physical contact is discouraged, NAMI (National Association for Mental Illness) Collier County is bringing furry “hugs” to participants. Petland Naples brings puppies to the Sarah Ann Drop-In Center once a month to interact with visitors who come to the center to participate in support groups and social and recreational activities.

“They make members laugh like we haven’t heard in a long time,” said Kristin Long, NAMI Collier’s director of development.

The Center closed in March due to the pandemic and reopened in September. Although support groups were held virtually when the center was closed and NAMI Collier County staff reached out to participants, the isolation was especially hard on people with mental health diagnoses.

“Animals are so great, because they interact unconditionally,” said Carol Anderson, a Sarah Ann Drop-In Center participant. “I am very isolated. This has made a huge difference in my life. They are so warm. You can’t just grab a stranger, but you can hug puppies.”

Being able to cuddle and play with the puppies uplifts moods and brings joy to center participants.

“It helps me and my fellow peers take what’s bothering us away for a while,” said Gregory Taylor, a Center participant. “They don’t have to worry about what we have to worry about.”

For more than 25 years, NAMI’s Sarah Ann Drop-In Center has been a confidential, accepting and safe environment where people over the age of 18 with a mental health diagnosis can visit daily. The center is managed and operated by people who have a lived experience with mental health diagnoses and recovery oriented.

For more information about the Sara Ann Drop-Inn Center and NAMI Collier County programs, visit namicollier.org.

 

About NAMI Collier County

NAMI Collier County provides free education, to help individuals living with mental illness along with their families, caregivers & health care providers. NAMI programs include Support Groups, a Family-to-Family 12-week program for families and caregivers of persons with diagnosed mental illnesses, and Guide, a series of monthly seminars, which provide helpful information to caregivers of adults with mental illness. The Sarah Ann Drop-In Center, located at 6324 Trail Boulevard in Naples, is a self-standing center where persons with a diagnosis may go during the day, six days a week with classes, support groups, daily activities, lunches and outings. Every other month, NAMI trains 30 members of law enforcement and related agencies to be members of CIT (Crisis Intervention Team), providing information about mental illness and how to de-escalate potentially deadly confrontations. NAMI continuously provides over $30,000 in financial assistance for psychiatric evaluations and emergency prescriptions, shelter, and food. NAMI depends largely on individual and corporate donations. For information, visit namicollier.org, call 239-260-7300 or email info@namicollier.org.