Have a loved one with a mental illness? Help is here
By ANDREW MCGINN
There’s yet to be a 5K to raise money for schizoaffective disorder.
Or a magnetic ribbon you can affix to your car that reads, “Borderline personality disorder.”
As Karen North puts it, when someone is suffering from mental illness, neighbors and friends rarely bring over a casserole.
“When people have cancer or heart problems, everybody has a story,” she said. “There’s a stigma to mental illness. People tend to be quiet about it.”
A free, 12-week course beginning Sept. 8 for family members and partners of people with mental illness will give them a much-needed opportunity to talk freely about what they’re going through.
North and Sue Wind will co-facilitate the night class — sanctioned by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) — for the first time locally in four years.
They previously led the class — NAMI’s Family-to-Family Education Program — in 2003 and 2010 after undergoing NAMI training.
“A lot of people describe it as life changing,” North said.
They both were inspired to become trained facilitators after participating in the program themselves in 2002 in Ames.
Wind’s son had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
North’s now-late daughter, Becky, was struggling with major depression.
“It was a life saver for me,” Wind said. “I needed help. I needed support. I needed information.”
She found it at the class.
“It helped my anxiety level,” she explained. “I didn’t feel like I was alone.
“Knowledge is power in situations like this.”
They knew they had to bring the information back to Jefferson.
“We got so much out of it,” Wind said.
The class will meet Mondays from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the St. Joseph Parish Center, 501 N. Locust St., in Jefferson.
Registration is required by Aug. 20 to allow time for enough materials to be printed.
To sign up, contact North at 515-386-2736 or Wind at 515-386-3002.
They stress that all discussions during the class are strictly confidential.
“This is not something to be ashamed of,” Wind said.
The class isn’t, however, for people with mental illness themselves.
Rather, this is for those people whose loved ones appear to have or have already been diagnosed with a swath of brain disorders, including major depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It affects the whole family,” North said.
Knowledge is power
For more information, visit nami.org