Still time to register for Family-to-Family education program

NAMIDealing with the mental illness of a loved one can be challenging and lonely, but help is available for those who participate in an upcoming Family-to-Family education program sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The 12-session course will be held Mondays from 7 to 9:30 pm, beginning Sept. 8, at St Joseph Parish Center in Jefferson. According to Sue Wind, who will facilitate the course with Karen North, the meeting night could be changed to accommodate the majority of interested persons.

The program is structured to help caregivers understand and support individuals with a serious mental illness while maintaining their own well-being. Participants will gain knowledge and insight about major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and co-occurring brain

According to Wind, the discussions are as valuable as the text book information. “Only people who have someone in their family with a mental illness can attend the class, so everyone there has experienced at least one challenging situation with a mentally ill loved one. All discussions are strictly confidential, so people can feel free to open up. Hearing how others are dealing with these challenging situations helps to give the other participants hope,” Wind said. “Many of our friends or family members do not understand what our special challenges are, but someone who has ‘been there, and done that’ can make us feel that we are not alone in our struggles.”

With the recent suicide of comedian/actor Robin Williams, the stigma attached to mental illness has been discussed many places recently. Wind said, “For me, one of the greatest benefits of attending the class was to break down the barriers of shame and stigma attached to mental illnesses. There should be no shame to the family of someone with a mental illness. It is a disease of the brain – and should be treated by others as no more shameful than if someone has diabetes, heart problems, or a broken leg…Knowledge of brain disorders leads to understanding, and understanding leads to empathy.”

Participation and all discussions are strictly confidential. The course covers: handling crisis and relapse; medications; listening and communication techniques; problem solving skills; recovery and rehabilitation; and self-care around worry and stress.

There is no charge for the course, but pre-registration is required so materials can be prepared.Persons who would like more information or to register for the class can call North at 515-386-2736, Wind at 515-386-3002, or NAMI Iowa at 1-800-417-0417.

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