Course offers help for families of mentally ill

Published 9:39 pm Saturday, March 19, 2011

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Western Tidewater will offer the free NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program in Franklin beginning Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. The class is designed to help the well family members deal with the issues of living with a loved one who has been diagnosed with mental illness.

Written by a psychologist whose son has schizophrenia, the regularly updated NAMI Family-to-Family curriculum provides a wealth of information about the major mental illnesses, or brain disorders, including:

4Current information about schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, and co-occurring brain disorders and addictive disorders

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4Up-to-date information about medications, side effects, and strategies for medication adherence

4Current research related to the biology of brain disorders and the evidence-based, most effective treatments to promote recovery

4Gaining empathy by understanding what mental illness is like from the inside

4Special workshops for problem-solving, listening and communication techniques

4Strategies for handling crises and preventing relapse

4Care for the caregiver: coping with worry, stress and emotional overload

4Guidance on locating appropriate supports and services within the community

4Information on advocacy to improve and expand services

The classes are taught by two trained leaders who themselves have a relative with mental illness.

Many families have described their experience in the Family-to-Family course as “life-changing.”

A young man whose mother took the class said that what she learned “radically transformed my relationship to [her] and consequently my ability to cope with the bipolar disorder I have had for so many years.”

One mother said, “Today I came out of a long, dark, endless tunnel into a room filled with light. The light was the NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program.”

More than 115,000 family members in the United States (including 135 from Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, Suffolk and northeastern North Carolina) have completed the Family-to-Family course.

The program is free and open to all relatives ages 15 and older of people with mental illness. Classes begin on Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. at High Street United Methodist Church in Franklin, at 301 N. High St. Class size is limited and registration is required. To register, call Carol Evans at 757-562-2988.

Family-to-Family is sponsored in Franklin by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, NAMI Virginia, NAMI Western Tidewater and High Street United Methodist Church.