Dea VanDeBerghe is president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness NE Kansas. In this Q5, she talks about the Family-to-Family Education Program.

Dea VanDeBerghe is president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness NE Kansas. In this Q5, she talks about the Family-to-Family Education Program.

1. What is the National Alliance on Mental Illness Family-to-Family Education Program? When and where will classes be and how can readers find out more about the program and register?
NAMI’s Family-to-Family course was created specifically for individuals who have a loved one of any age suffering with a mental illness. The course focuses on understanding the medical aspects and daily living strategies related to six major mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.
The NAMI Family-to-Family course is now listed on the United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.
Free registration is by calling 913-683-4571 or via e-mail at NAMILVN@yahoo.com, or online at www.naminekl.com. Classes begin Monday, Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Also, anyone can drop by our regular support meetings on the second and last Tuesday of each month, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and located at 1013 Pottawatomie in Leavenworth, to sign up. We also offer veteran/military support meetings on the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m., and families of veteran/military support meetings on the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.
 
2. What will be discussed in this 12-week course and how will participants benefit from this program?
The curriculum discusses the treatment of these illnesses and teaches family members skills needed to cope effectively with the ill family member. They will also learn how to navigate the mental health treatment system and to advocate for their family member. Some of the specific topics include, understanding the illness, medications, current research, problem solving techniques, communication skills, handling crisis, empathy, support services and self-care.

3. Why has the program been designed for family members, rather than the individuals diagnosed with a major mental illness?
This particular class addresses the specific needs of family members supporting those suffering from a mental illness. NAMI also offers multiple classes for those dealing with a mental illness, such as our NAMI Peer to Peer, In Our Own Voice and Connection groups.
 
4. With one in four people affected by mental illness, what are some of the misconceptions about the illness that are still prevalent in our society and are those who suffer from mental illness still stigmatized?
Mental health stigma can be divided into two distinct types: social stigma is characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given.
In contrast, perceived stigma or self-stigma is the internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination, and perceived stigma can significantly affect feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcomes. "Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General" identified stigma as one of the major barriers that discourages adults with mental illnesses, and the families of children and adolescents with serious emotional disorders, from seeking treatment.
Among the consequences of discrimination and stigma for adults who have mental illnesses are lowered self-esteem; disrupted family relationships; and increased difficulty in building connections in the community, securing housing, and obtaining employment. Children who experience discrimination and stigma may be scarred for life.
 
5. Families often only seek help when their loved one has some sort of crisis. Do you think the family-to-family sessions will encourage people to stay with NAMI for long-term support?
Absolutely. Supporting our loved ones can be a long-term process. The NAMI Family-to-Family class is an amazing opportunity to learn a great deal of extremely useful information.
However, support is an on-going need, even without experiencing a crisis situation.
Continuing with the NAMI Support Groups provides for additional education, up-to-date information and the support of others dealing with the same situations.
Even when family members suffering with a mental illness are in recovery, the support is still needed.
Advocating for our friends, family members and others, is and will be an on-going process for everyone.

— Rimsie McConiga