By: Karen Salisbury, CSW
Often in life, we find ourselves in situations beyond our control. We may have family members working through infertility struggles, cancer, drug addictions, deaths, etc. We, as clinicians, are no different.
Many years ago, I found myself involved with family members who suffered chronically from debilitating mental illnesses. It was long before the days of search engines such as Google, and I was left in the trenches to hunt for any resource I could find. Decades ago, people didn’t know or talk much about mental illness. The stigma was ten-fold what it is today. Those suffering were often hidden from the outside world and family members were forbidden to speak of it. In the 1980’s, I was left seemingly alone to search for answers. I read any book I could get my hands on, badgered every doctor, and prayed a lot! Bit by bit, answers for my loved ones were found and we learned to successfully navigate the murky waters of the mental health system.
Thankfully, many things are different now. Doctor’s understand more than they once did, search engines provide immediate information, mental illnesses are now known to be largely chemical or genetic in nature, and medications are readily available for those in need.
Community resources are also available. Approximately 13 years ago, I learned about one such resource call NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness.) With family members long since stabilized and living productive lives, I contacted the local NAMI Chapter to see if I could “give back” as a volunteer. I was first asked to attend a NAMI “Family to Family Course;” a free, 12-week program for family members of those who suffer mental illnesses. I signed up for the class, but was skeptical of what they could offer. I told myself, “I’ll give it one week. If it’s a waste of my time, I’ll be done.”
During that first week, I found a group of wonderful people who were living my early story. As each week unfolded, I realized that this course provided the many insights I had learned the hard way over a 27-year period. I loved the course so much that I eventually taught and managed the course for the entire county.
NAMI now holds a piece of my heart. If you happen to be looking for a good mental health resource, consider NAMI. They offer several FREE courses including:
• NAMI BASICS: a 6-week course for parents with small children who suffer Mental Illness;
• Borderline Personality family support groups;
• NAMI Family-to-Family (both English and Spanish): A 12-week course for family members that educates them on how to best care for and support their loved ones and themselves (Registration is REQUIRED for this class. To register, please call Norm at 425-350-6117)
• NAMI Peer-to-Peer, a 10-session educational program for adults with mental illness who are looking to better understand their condition and journey toward recovery. (Registration is REQUIRED for this class. To register, please call Heather at 801-857-8496.)
For more information, concerning these courses as well as monthly support groups, see the NAMI Utah County page on Facebook.