A new support group affiliated with the National Alliance for Mental Illness will have meetings starting in January for people living with a mental disorder.

Local organizers Jessica Montgomery and Janice Magill hope the support group - called Connections - might serve as a safe place to learn about local resources for people living with major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Organizers also hope the group might be able to show others they aren't alone in living with mental illness.

"It's something that needed to happen," Montgomery said of the group.

The support group will begin at 6:45 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at Faith Lutheran Church, 3024 Michigan Road. The support group sessions will begin on Jan. 9, and each session will last about 90 minutes.

No registration is needed.

"We don't want it to be a gripe session," Montgomery said, noting organizers hope the support group will be a positive place to find ideas or solutions to help people living with a diagnosis.

Magill stressed that the support group isn't a therapy group, and that each of the support group meetings will be led by trained National Alliance for Mental Illness - or NAMI - facilitators.

Each meeting will follow the 12 principles of support outlined by NAMI and an agenda, she said.

At first, Magill wasn't sure if she should be the person to lead a support group, she said, yet she believes in the strength of the program after going to extensive training.

"I can see that it would work," she said, adding that the model already used by other NAMI affiliates gave her the confidence to lead the Madison support group.

The idea for the Connections support group came about after a 12-week Family-to-Family class offered earlier this year. The class focused on education, support and information for families and close relatives of people who live with serious mental illnesses. The course also covered support and education to advocacy and overcoming the stigma of a mental disorder.

More than a dozen family members attended the first Family-to-Family course in Madison, organizer Jeff Pflug said.

"There's a real interest," Pflug said. "There is a real need."

Pflug said plans include offering the Family-to-Family course twice per year - once in the spring and once in the fall.

"Our classes were extremely well-received," Montgomery said. "(Family members) just loved it and didn't want it to stop."

The Family-to-Family group and organizers decided some kind of action needed to continue after the course was completed in early December. Most of the participants recognized the need for a family support group or network in the local area.

The Family-to-Family course participants plan to meet again at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 14 at Faith Lutheran Church to talk about forming a Family-to-Family support group or just to meet and network with one another, Montgomery said.

Family members of people with mental illnesses are welcome to come to the Family-to-Family meeting, even if they were unable to attend the course earlier this year.

"This is something we really want to establish," Pflug said of the support groups.

For more information about the Connections support group, contact Jessica or Janice at (812) 292-0949.