Alliance for Mentally Ill Plans; Program for Family Members

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

NASSAU COUNTY -- A case of mental illness can claim more than one victim. It's also difficult for the families of its victims.

Family members of mentally ill people might not understand what is happening to their loved one because diseases such as bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia aren't widely understood, said Lisa Mohn, president of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Nassau County.

But help is on the way. Beginning Monday, Feb. 6, the local NAMI chapter for the first time will offer a free, 12-week class designed to help family members better understand their relatives' mental illness and cope with its impacts.

Trained volunteers -- themselves family members of mentally ill people -- will lead the "Family to Family" class. A clinical professional developed the curriculum, she said.

"[Class participants] get in-depth knowledge about mental illness and about treatment options," Mohn said. "They learn to navigate the mental health delivery system, including doctors, medications, hospitals and everything related to their medical care. This helps caregivers to help their loved ones maintain their treatment plan and help with their recovery."

The course will cover mental illnesses such as clinical depression, bipolar mood disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, panic/anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"This class is developed toward family members who are assisting their loved ones. It's a very comprehensive review of how mental illness affects families and includes coping strategies. When you're the family member and it's happening, you're the one who needs as much information as you can get," Mohn said. …