photo of Sylvia Axelrod
Sylvia Axelrod
Sylvia Axelrod is the Executive Director of NAMI NEW JERSEY, a leading statewide education, support and advocacy organization with a network of 22 local affiliates and over 2500 members dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by mental illness.  Prior to assuming this position in 1992 she had a 15 year career in the development and administration of psychiatric rehabilitation programs. 

During her tenure at NAMI NJ, Ms. Axelrod has initiated a wide range of programs focused on providing education, support and advocacy for families and consumers. These programs include Family-to-Family Education Courses in English and Spanish, NAMI Basics (education for families/caregivers of young children and adolescents), Hearts and Minds (consumer wellness and recovery education program) and NAMI Connection (consumer self help support group program). She also worked to provide mental health education and reduce the stigma of mental illness across cultures through the development NAMI NJ’s South Asian Program (SAMHAJ), Chinese Outreach (CAMHOP), Latino Outreach Program (NAMI NJ En Espanol) and African American Outreach Program (AACT-NOW). 

In order to improve understanding about mental health and destigmatize mental illness in the schools she has supported the development “Educating the Educators” (ETE) and “Every Mind Matters,” two unique programs that work with educators and students.  She also brought to New Jersey the highly acclaimed national consumer presenter program, “In Our Own Voice – Living with Mental Illness,” a powerful tool for community education and reducing stigma by putting a human face on mental illness.

Ms. Axelrod’s efforts to combat stigma included the development of the NAMI NJ Expressive Arts Network and the launching of NAMI NJ’s “Freedom from Stigma Campaign” which focused media attention on the strengths and talents of individuals affected by mental illness.  It included an essay/poetry/story contest, the publication of the “Freedom from Stigma Journal,” a celebration of wellness, recovery, and hope, and the 2004 Walk at Liberty State Park which drew over 4000 people. Recently, she has been responsible for the development of two award winning documentaries, “The Community I Serve: Law Enforcement and Persons with Mental Illness” and “Documenting Our Presence: Multicultural Experiences of mental Illness.”

Ms. Axelrod has served on a variety of governmental and stakeholder advisory committees including Governor Codey’s Task Force on Mental Health where she chaired the Task Force’s Parity and Stigma Advisory Sub-Committee.  She is the recipient of numerous honors for her outstanding contribution to mental health advocacy, combating stigma and promoting understanding about mental illness. These awards included the New Jersey Community Health Law Project Ann Klein Advocacy Award and the 2007 Eli Lilly “Welcome Back” Award for De-stigmatization.  Ms. Axelrod received her BA Degree from Brooklyn College and her MA Degree from Keane University.