"The best thing about the classes is that you don't feel alone," Kate says about the Family to Family classes she took from The National Association on Mental Illness.
Tom adds, "There were a lot of tears shed from relief at finding support and thankfulness for it."
Having a family member with a mental illness is difficult. No one can predict when or how the illness will manifest.
Friends avoid the topic and eventually avoid you because they do not know what to say and really don't want to hear about the problems.
"If your husband or wife has diabetes," says Sally, "people would be supportive and ask how they could help.
"But if they have a mental illness, people don't want to hear about it."
The free NAMI classes are taught by instructors who understand the challenges. Participants get information about mental illnesses, treatments, and have a chance to share experiences.
Topics include panic disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. Information also focuses on problem-solving, communication, medications, coping skills, recovery, rehabilitation and self-care for caregivers.
Former participants report that the following were most helpful:
• Learning not to be judgmental of the person with mental illness
• Learning that the bad times will pass
• Learning good strategies and ways to plan for episodes
• Learning empathy, that sometimes the best thing is just to be there, be loving and listen.
The 12-week Family to Family classes begin from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 10, in Sequim. Classes will be taught by Mary Benevides and Donna Dewey.
Preregistration is required. Call 681-8455 or 582-1598 to register or for more information, including where classes will be taught.
Reach Dana Casey at email@example.com.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
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