Princeton Seminary student interns bring a sense of social consciousness and compassion to their work at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), according to the organization's executive director, Janet Haag.
As the county affiliate of the national organization, NAMI Mercer's mission is to improve the lives of individuals and families who are affected by mental illness through education, advocacy, and support.
Though NAMI is not in a position to hire its student interns full time, Haag says, "I cannot think of a Princeton Seminary student intern that I would not have hired."
She adds, “These students are the perfect people to step in and help provide mental health support and encouragement. They bring a sense of hope because of who they are.”
Among their duties, interns work alongside other NAMI volunteers who are living in recovery and looking to develop skills to get back into the workforce. The students help create a sense of camaraderie that allows these volunteers to build up their confidence.
Interns like Rachael Schaad, who graduates from the Seminary next year, also help staff the resource helpline. She says callers are often “at their wits end” about a loved one suffering from mental illness.
“It has helped me practice patience and listening to people,” Schaad says. “You’re a compassionate witness to things that you can’t always fix immediately, but I learned that almost more valuable to them is having someone hear them and say, ‘I’m sorry’.”
Schaad’s field education experience at NAMI fits well with her ministry and goals. She is also pursuing a master’s in social work from Rutgers University and is interested in “seeing how churches can be of service to those with mental health challenges.”