Program helps families deal with mental illnesses
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 11:00 AM
Two local residents hope a program that provided them with insight to mental illnesses affecting their families might provide help to others in the area dealing with the same issues.
Jessica Montgomery and Jeff Pflug, members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, plan to organize and present a free 12-week National Alliance on Mental Illness - or NAMI - Family-to-Family course for area residents.
The classes provide education, support and information for families and close relatives of people who live with serious mental illnesses, including major depression and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Montgomery said the course covers everything from support and education to advocacy and overcoming the stigma of a mental disorder. The class also offers some of the most current brain research related to mental illness during the 12-week class.
"It's just an amazing amount of information," she said.
The course will be taught by Montgomery and Pflug, two trained NAMI family member volunteers who understand what it's like to have someone in their immediate family living with a serious mental disorder.
"There's got to be a need for it," Montgomery said of the class.
Pflug said mental disorders don't affect just one demographic. In fact, one in four Americans face mental illness this year, the NAMI website said.
"It's people from every walk of life," Pflug said of the illness.
Pflug and Montgomery began working with NAMI to better understand their family members' illness, they said.
Both Madison residents drove to Cincinnati for the training since a NAMI affiliate wasn't available locally - something they hope to change with time.
"It helped me to understand," Pflug said of the class and training.
Montgomery said the class helped her to know she wasn't alone when dealing with her family members' illness - and she also gained insight from the national organization into her own diagnosis, a bi-polar disorder.
Still, organizers stress that the Family-to-Family course to be offered in Madison will focus on the education and support of families, and would not be appropriate for people who have been diagnosed with mental illness. The course will discuss medications available for mental illnesses, as well as communication and problem-solving techniques, coping mechanism and self-care skills needed for caretakers and immediate family to deal with a family members' mental illness.
"There's a lot of opportunity for discussion," Montgomery said of the course.
Pflug said the class gives people the opportunity to see that they aren't alone in dealing with issues from illnesses.
"It helps families and individuals understand (the illnesses)," he said. "It's a very non-threatening environment, and it's open to all."
Montgomery and Pflug plan to begin the 12-week class on Sept. 17 at the Faith Lutheran Church, 3024 Michigan Rd. No time for the class has been set yet, Pflug said, and organizers hope to find a time that works around schedules of the participants.
Participants are asked to register for the course by Friday so materials can be ordered. To register for the class, call (812) 292-1047.
More information about NAMI and the services offered by the organization may be found online at www.nami.org.