A free mental health education class for family members and friends of adults with a mental illness will be offered later this month by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Four County.
The class, called Family to Family, begins Wednesday, August 30 starting at 6 p.m. at St. John United Church of Christ, 950 Webster St., Defiance.
The class meets for two hours for eight consecutive Wednesdays, concluding on October 18. However, participants are not required to attend every class.
“This class is personal to me,” explained Jillene McMichael, the lead instructor. “Having a loved one in your life who suffers from a mental illness can and absolutely will affect you – especially if you don’t take the time to learn about and understand the illness. That is key.”
She continued, “If your loved one has a heart attack, once they are discharged from the hospital you don’t keep your head down, pray he or she doesn’t talk to you about anything, and cross your fingers that all will go well.
“Instead, you ask questions. What’s the right medication? What are his or her new limitations? How can I help? So why is mental health any different?”
McMichael said that NAMI’s Family to Family can help you and your family be more supportive, understanding and a better advocate for your loved one.
She explained that the class was very helpful for her and another family member earlier this year. So helpful that she decided to complete the instructor training so she could lead a class herself.
Each week the class covers a different topic, including: learning about the symptoms and facts of major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, and understanding each diagnosis as well as the treatment of each illness.
Other topics covered include dealing with difficult periods that a person suffering from a mental illness goes through, including relapse; an up-to-date medication review; a problem-solving workshop; developing strategies on how to better communicate with the mentally ill loved one; and making sure family members and friends take care of themselves.
The class curriculum was professionally developed by NAMI and is now included on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
NAMI Executive Director Wendy Jennings will assist McMichael present Family to Family. Both are family members who have been trained by NAMI to teach the class.
Participants will receive a notebook full of information on each topic covered during the class.
McMichael explained that the information is explained and presented in an easy to understand way and includes time for participants to ask questions and share.
In fact, she explained the sharing that occurs is powerful. “To hear others speak (when she took the class) gave me a sign of relief – knowing that I was not alone in my struggles. To have someone suggest an option that I hadn’t thought of was beneficial.”
Although the class is free, registration is required. To register or get more detailed information about the Family to Family class, either call NAMI Four County at 419-405-3651 or register online at www.namifourcounty.org in the “Classes” section so enough hand-outs can be prepared.
For more information about NAMI Four County, including information about monthly meetings and support groups, please visit their website: www.namifourcounty.org.