Course offered for MH families

Program to help participants better understand mental illness

The Blair County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is holding a free, 12-session course beginning today for people who are close to someone with mental illness.

NAMI Family-to-Family is designed to help family members, partners, significant others, friends and caregivers to better understand and better help the adults with mental illness while “maintaining their own well-being,” according to a flyer provided by Sara McConnell, executive director of the Blair chapter.

Taught by two trained instructors who are family members of people with mental illness, the course offers information on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and other conditions, according to the flyer.

The information provided is evidence-based, “meaning that research shows the program significantly improves the coping and problem solving abilities of participants,” stated an email from McConnell, who is also a family member of someone who was affected by mental illness.

Participants learn “problem solving and effective communication, self-care and stress management, compassionate support and understanding, how to make the most of community supports and services, mental health conditions and how they affect the brain, crisis management techniques, current treatments and therapies and the large-scale impact of mental health conditions on the entire family system,” McConnell wrote.

They also learn “how to handle a crisis,” according to the NAMI website.

Participants tend to share experiences with one another, as the course is “a safe place” — and there’s no need to fear judgment, according to McConnell.

Participants readily empathize with each other, she wrote.

There are usually representatives from five to 10 families in attendance, she wrote.

Based on the 20 percent national incidence of mental illness, there are about 24,000 people in Blair County with that problem, according to McConnell.

Sometimes mental illness co-occurs with substance abuse, which may happen when people try to self-medicate, perhaps just to try to “feel normal,” McConnell wrote. That, however, “brings on its own set of issues, especially if addiction occurs,” she wrote.

“The group setting of NAMI Family-to-Family provides mutual support and shared positive impact,” the NAMI website states. “Experience compassion and reinforcement from people who understand.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

If you go

What: NAMI Family-to-Family — Free educational program for those close to adults with mental illness

When: 2-4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, six consecutive weeks, beginning today

Where: Van Zandt VA

Medical Center