NOTE: The information in these Frequently Asked Questions are presented in summary form as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the knowledge, skill & judgment of qualified psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians & health care professionals. If you have health, medical or disability questions, please consult a physician or other health care professional.

Helpline Frequently Asked Questions

What SERVICES does NAMI Santa Clara County provide?

NAMI Santa Clara County offers support, education and information/resources free of charge to all persons within the County who are affected by mental illness (including individuals with a mental health condition, as well as their families and friends.)  We also promote mental health awareness and advocacy within the local community.  All our services are provided by compassionate, trained, non-professional staff and volunteers who have lived experience with their own, or their loved ones’ mental illness.  Our years of experience, and connections with state/national NAMI and local community organizations allows us to gather and offer a wealth of online and in-person mental health information and resources.  At NAMI, we are dedicated to improving the lives of people with mental illness, by inspiring others through our non-judgmental support and messages of hope and recovery.

Services we offer at NAMI Santa Clara County include:

* Note:  NAMI does not offer professional mental health services or therapy, and our programs are not a substitute for treatment by a psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional. However, we can direct people to these community resources. Our focus is on mental health issues and illnesses, and we generally do not address physical or developmental illnesses or disabilities (such as dementia, traumatic brain injury, learning disabilities, or autism spectrum disorders). If we lack expertise in an area of inquiry, we do try to refer people to other organizations that may better assist them.

I am in a crisis, my family is in CRISIS, OR I am thinking about SUICIDE. What should I do?

If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, family crisis, or are having suicidal thoughts, see our Crisis Support Page for a list of emergency and crisis phone numbers and resources.

In a life threatening EMERGENCY, call 9-1-1 and ask for a CIT officer (Crisis Intervention Team)


  • call 9-8-8*             (* Only for area code 408, 650 or 669. For all other area codes, call 800-704-0900  and press 1)
  • Text RENEW to 741441 (Crisis Text Line)

If you have a CHILD in a mental health crisis, call the Paciafic Clinic Child/Adolescent Mobile Crisis Program (includes after hours/weekend emergencies): 408-379-9085 or 1-877-412-7474

If you are a TEENAGER in a mental health crisis, you can call Bill Wilson Center CRISIS LINE:  408-850-6140, or the Teen Hotline: 650-579-0353

If you are feeling SUICIDAL, Call 9-8-8*  Talking to someone may help. Suicide and Crisis hotlines have trained counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t wait – call now! Ÿ

For more facts and resources on Suicide, see these related links:

I am/ or my friend/family member is NEWLY DIAGNOSED with a mental illness. What do I do now?

We encourage you to start by informing yourself about mental illness. This can be done by attending an education or support program or by requesting general information, fact sheets, and brochures about your illness. For more information on specific mental illnesses, treatments and other related issues, see our NAMI page About Mental illness. NAMI Santa Clara County offers an array of education classes, support groups and other programs/services for people living with mental illness, family members, and the general public. These programs draw on the experiences of those who are affected directly by mental illness. They also offer information about mental illness, coping strategies and local services that could help you with a specific problem. Many people find that, at the beginning of their recovery process, they just need someone to talk to who can understand and provide emotional support. The NAMI Santa Clara County Helpline volunteers and staff are caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable. They can provide general information about mental illness and provide referrals to appropriate resources. Many have had first-hand experiences with mental illness, either as a family member or as a person living with mental illness. You can reach Helpline representatives by calling 1-408-453-0400, Option 1 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m (leave a message on voice mail outside of these hours). You can also come into our NAMI office to talk to one of us, to obtain fact sheets and brochures, and to borrow books from our library. To call, visit or otherwise contact NAMI Santa Clara County, see our Contact Us page.

Where can I find a SUPPORT GROUP in my area?

NAMI Santa Clara County offers an array of support groups and education courses to assist persons living with mental illness, and their family and friends, through the recovery process. We also provide information on other support groups in Santa Clara County. All NAMI support groups and education courses are free.

  • For a list of NAMI Santa Clara County Support Groups, see our Support Groups page
  • For up-to-date information about all NAMI Santa Clara support groups and other non-NAMI support groups in the area, see our current Resource Guide
  • For a list of NAMI Santa Clara County Education Courses, see our Education Classes Page
  • You may also call the NAMI Helpline Helpdesk at 1-408-453-0400, Option 1 for suggestions on support groups addressing specific issues or groups.

I don't know how to HELP my FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER who has a mental illness. Can NAMI support me?

NAMI Santa Clara County offers an array of education programs and support groups to assist persons experiencing mental illness and their family members. NAMI’s Family-to-Family education course is ideal for family members, friends and other caregivers seeking answers. Ongoing NAMI and other community support groups provide a safe place to talk to other people going through similar situations (these are listed in our Resource Guide). You may also call the NAMI Helpline at 1-408-453-0400, Option 1 for suggestions and support.

I or my family member was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold, and/or was hospitalized involuntarily in a psychiatric facility. Legally, how does "INVOLUNTARY TREATMENT" work?

A person over the age of 18 has the right to refuse psychiatric treatment, including medication, except when they are deemed a “danger to self, danger to others, or gravely disabled.”  Visit our Involuntary Treatment Page for more details.

My friend/family member believes "I AM NOT SICK AND/OR DO NOT NEED HELP". What can I do to make them follow through on psychiatric treatment?

In California, medication or therapy cannot be enforced without the person’s permission, except in the case of minors, and adults who are:

  1. A danger to themselves
  2. A danger to others
  3. Gravely disabled due to mental illness (this usually only applies to persons who are homeless and too disabled to provide for their own shelter, food, or clothing)

If your friend or relative is mentally ill and a danger to him/herself or to others, you can:

  • Try to convince him/her to go with you to an emergency psychiatric facility, or
  • Call 911 and ask for a crisis intervention trained (CIT) officer to be sent to the location. Explain the problem when you call.

Police officers and designated mental health professionals can to place such a person on an involuntary psychiatric hold (or “5150”), for purposes of psychiatric evaluation and possible hospitalization and treatment. In extreme cases, when a person has a long history of serious mental illness and noncompliance, an LPS (mental health) Conservatorship may be an option. An LPS conservatorship makes one adult (called the conservator) responsible for a mentally ill adult (called the conservatee). These conservatorships are only for adults with grave mental illnesses, and must be requested through the courts. For guidelines, visit the Santa Clara County Superior Court’s page on LPS Conservatorships, or see our Involuntary Treatment Page.

* Note that if a person does not meet the legal qualifications for an involuntary psychiatric hold (a danger to self, to others, or gravely disables), and they refuse to seek treatment, you have limited options for forcing them to get help.  Involuntary treatment protect the rights of individuals to refuse psychiatric treatment even when their loved ones believe they truly need help.  Few psychiatric professionals are willing to conduct an addiction-style “intervention” with a person suffering strictly from a mental health disorder.  These types of confrontations are can backfire with a serious mental illness.  Too often, the nature of the mental health disorder is such that the person believes that their delusions and paranoia are based in fact and that anyone who questions their assertions is a part of the conspiracy against them. A situation that causes stress or conflict for them – like an intervention – can result in unpredictable reactions. In some extreme cases, the person may run away or become violent.  Non-threatening persuasion and negotiation by loved ones may be more effective in effecting change and preserving personal relationships in the long run.

Also, NAMI Santa Clara County offers education courses and support groups to assist family, friends and caregivers of those living with the mental illness. Family-to-Family, NAMI’s 12-week free education course, is particularly helpful and will address many of your concerns. You will find that you are not alone, and the instructors and other families in the course have been through similar experiences. You will learn from their personal strategies to help you cope. A book that many family members and friends have found helpful is I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help by Xavier Amador, Ph.D., available from the NAMI Santa Clara County office at cost, or via NAMI also offers a fact sheet on anosognosia (impaired awareness of illness), which helps explain why some individuals diagnosed with major mental illness sincerely do not believe that they are ill.

My family member was hospitalized, and won’t sign a consent form allowing the staff to talk to me. How can I COMMUNICATE MY CONCERNS about treatment or discharge plans?

Your loved one’s medical information cannot be released to you unless they sign a release of information form.  However, you can give written information to treatment providers (doctors, case managers, etc.) about your loved one, which they have to read. AB 1424 is a California law which requires that all individuals making decisions about involuntary treatment consider information supplied by family members. The AB 1424 form, jointly developed by NAMI of Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Mental Health, and mental health consumers, provides a means for family members to communicate to psychiatric services and hospitals about their relative’s mental health history. You can include current mental health needs.  Please see the AB 1424 website page for more information, and to download AB 1424 forms in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

My family member has been ARRESTED. How do I help them?

If your family member or friend calls you and says that he/she has been arrested, help him or her to stay calm and offer your support. Visit our Family Member Arrested pages with information on Criminal Justice and the mentally ill.

My family member is MISSING, and may be homeless or vulnerable. What can I do to find my relative?

People with mental health issues occasionally leave home or other secure housing to become homeless and/or missing, leaving family members distraught and desperate to locate them. If you have a missing loved one with serious mental illness, and are concerned about their safety, go to our Finding Missing Persons web page for information and suggestions.

I have a child struggling with a mental illness at home and at school. Does NAMI have resources for families or caregivers of CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS?

Mental health conditions are common among teens and young adults. 1 in 5 live with a mental health condition—half develop the condition by age 14 and three quarters by age 24. A mental health condition isn’t your child’s or your family’s fault—it develops for complicated reasons that researchers are only starting to understand. But NAMI can help you understand mental illness and what you can do to support your child or teenager. Mental health services and supports are available and the earlier you access them the better. See the following web site pages for more information:

You may be interested in NAMI Basics, our education program for parents and caregivers of children and adolescents living with mental health conditions. This six-session course is taught by trained teachers who are also parents/caregivers of individuals who developed the symptoms of mental health conditions in childhood. It provides the fundamentals of caring for yourself, your family, and your child with a mental health condition. NAMI Santa Clara County also offers an innovative schools-based presentation called Ending The Silence.

When children have mental health issues, they often experience behavioral and other problems in the classroom that interfere with their educational progress. If your child has mental health problems that are making it difficult for her to succeed in school, they may qualify as having an emotional disability that would benefit from special education services, via a “504 Plan” or an “Individualized Education Plan (IEP)”. These services may include school/classroom accommodations and mental health services that are paid for by the school district. For more information, go to our School Resources page.  Also, for guidance and classes on the special education/IEP process, contact Parents Helping Parents (408-727-5775, 1400 Parkmoor Avenue Suite 100, San Jose, CA 95126)

I am disabled due to mental illness, and need FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE. What is available to me?

For general information on financial assistance, visit the following pages on our site:

Listed below you will find contact and eligibility information for the various federal, state and county financial assistance programs:

Social Security Benefits

For more information on the following Social Security benefits, Call: 800-772-1213

To apply for these benefits, contact: Social Services Agency Assistance Application Center 1867 Senter Road, San Jose, CA  95112 Call: (408) 758-3800, or 1 (877) 962-3633  Automated 

Social Security pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you have a medical condition that has prevented you from working or is expected to prevent you from working, and you meet certain qualifications. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.  Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays benefits based on financial need.

  • SSDI — Social Security Disability Insurance   Eligibility: Worked 1-1/2 to 5 years, depending on one’s age
  • SSI— Supplemental Security Income   Eligibility: For those who have a mental, emotional or physical disability that prevents them from holding substantial employment and have less than $2,000 of assets excluding a car; provides monthly cash payments.

Medi-Cal Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid (state-run) health care program. Medi-Cal offers free or low-cost health coverage for low-income California residents who meet eligibility requirements. Eligibility: For those with low income and limited resources; this is a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs. Medicaid programs vary from state to state, but most

Medicare Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, and certain younger disabled people receiving SSDI. Eligibility: Receiving SSDI for two years, or retired and 65 years of age or older

Social Security Application Process You may apply for Social Security benefits through a local Social Security office. However, the application process can be long and complex. You may be denied benefits and have to reapply. Here are some agencies that will help people with mental illness apply for benefits or appeal a denial of benefits:                                                               

  • Central Wellness and Benefits Center 408-885-6200 Provides basic mental health, crisis intervention, and benefit enrollment services to all clients.                                                
  • SSI Advocacy Program 408-758-4355 Assists people who qualify for SSI

For legal assistance with the SSI/SSDI application process (especially when Social Security denies or threatens to halt benefits), contact:

  • Mental Health Advocacy Program (MHAP) 408-294-9730 Provide free legal advice, representation, referrals & assistance for housing, government benefits and patient’s rights services. Eligibility: mentally or developmentally disabled
  • Sackett and Associates 408-295-7755 Provide legal services on contingency fee basis for SSI/SSDI cases.  Also do Special Needs Trusts.

Unemployment Benefits

Employment Development Department  800-300-5616   Eligibility: Job loss State Disability Insurance (SDI)  800-480-3287 If you become mentally or physically disabled while working and as a result are unable to continue working, you may be eligible for State Disability benefits

Other Benefits

The Santa Clara County Social Service Agency, Department of Employment and Benefits Services assists people apply for Medi-Cal and the following other financial assistance:

  • General Assistance (GA) – a County-funded cash assistance program that helps individuals and couples, 18 years or older, who have no other means of adequate support.
  • CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps) – helps single people and families with little or no income to buy food by using a plastic card at a grocery store or other authorized place.

Local Area Application Centers:

  • San Jose: 877-962-3633
  • Mountain View: 408-758-3800
  • Gilroy: 408-758-3300
  • Automated Services: 408-758-4600