Showing posts with label NAMI Family Support Group. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NAMI Family Support Group. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Providing Support When It's Needed Most

By Laurie Emerson, NAMI Vermont Program Director

(left to right) Thelma, David, Darlene and Dirk of the NAMI
Connection Recovery Support Group in Vermont.

Individuals living with a mental illness need to talk with someone who understands—someone who has been in the same situation they are in, someone who can give them hope and inspiration for their recovery. The NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups provide that resource for individuals to connect with in their community, but what about individuals who are in severe crisis and have been hospitalized? This is the situation where they desperately need someone to talk to and bridge the gap to recovery.

With the help of our NAMI Connection Coordinator, Dirk Nakazawa, NAMI Vermont has opened doors to begin the healing process in the psychiatric unit at Rutland Regional Medical Center. “In my experience many people living with mental illness are too afraid or intimidated to leave the comfort of their home and walk into a room full of strangers to find support,” Nakazawa said. “What we have been finding since starting about four months ago is that many of the people who end up on the psychiatric unit really lack supportive people who truly understand what they are going through. We hope that when they leave the hospital the chances that they might seek out a support group to attend in order to find people who truly understand them would increase.”

By providing a NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group at the psychiatric unit in one of our community hospitals, it helps participants understand about a valuable resource waiting for them once they are released and can feel comfortable to attend a meeting in their local community. The meetings are flexible so that patients on the unit can come and go as they need to. Hospital staff sit in on meetings and find that many patients open up and discuss their feelings quite freely with the trained NAMI Vermont facilitators who help to problem solve and guide the discussion to a positive outcome.

“We are extremely pleased to have been able to partner with NAMI Vermont in developing this much needed resource on our inpatient psychiatric unit. Participating in the NAMI group while on the inpatient unit provides patients with a connection to the community resources which exists upon discharge providing smoother transition to the outpatient setting. The impact of this group is best described by one of the participants who said, ‘The NAMI group was awesome!’ when asked for feedback upon discharge,” said Dr. Gordon Frankle, Chief of Psychiatry for Rutland Regional Medical Center.

NAMI Vermont has formed a close partnership with Rutland Regional Medical Center who provides space for our NAMI Family-to-Family classes, Family Support Groups, and Provider Education courses. Now we have started a NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group at their psychiatric unit, one of the first in the nation.

I am so proud of our NAMI Connection facilitators, Dirk Nakazawa, David Remington, and Darlene Manning who have made such an impact on people’s lives in their recovery process. They are truly making a difference in Vermont through their dedication and commitment by leading through example and giving people courage and hope for their future. We hope to replicate this same process at other psychiatric units throughout the state.

Friday, May 10, 2013

How I Put the Happy in Mother’s Day

By Dawn Brown, NAMI HelpLine

When someone wishes me a Happy Mother’s Day they have no idea what it means to me; if you have an adult child with mental illness perhaps you can understand. Before I could have a happy Mother’s Day, I needed to recreate the mother I was and become the mother I needed to be.

When a woman becomes a mother everything changes as we take on the mantle of motherhood. Since there is no job description for mother, we tend to combine different experiences and expectations to create a rosy notion of motherhood. But nothing prepares you for being the mother of someone who develops a mental illness.

As my son began to experience the symptoms of mental illness, I believed as his mother that we could overcome anything, even schizophrenia. I was wrong. I was unprepared. I was doing more harm than good. He was slipping away, and as I stood in the kitchen and looked at the screaming, irrational stranger my son had become, it quickly became obvious that he needed a very different type of mother. Everything changed. My sense of loss was profound. My ability to protect and nurture my child was limited by my lack of knowledge and understanding. I needed to grieve and get my bearings, but mental illness demands action. I didn’t know what questions to ask, what people to see, and where to go. I didn’t know much, but I knew just enough to reach out to NAMI.
Using a nationwide network of NAMI State Organizations, NAMI Affiliates and a large Web presence, NAMI is ready to help you find information, gain insight and get support when mental illness strikes. NAMI was created by and for people like you and me, and today tens of thousands of volunteers offer themselves to help individuals and their loved ones find recovery and build better lives.

Being the mother of an adult with mental illness required me to become an expert on community mental health support services, psychiatric medications and psychosocial treatments. I learned a whole new vocabulary for a confusing, disjointed system that was adequate at best and harmful at its worst. I graduated from the NAMI Family-to-Family education program, plugged in to a NAMI Family Support Group, added the NAMI HelpLine to my speed dial (1 (800) 950-6264) and learned the art of patience and persistence.

It has been over 10 years since my son was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and everything has changed, including me. Today I am strong and assertive in advocating for my son. My boundaries are clear and defined. I respect him and expect respect. Treatment and medication are non-negotiable. I don’t indulge any illusions about what living with a mental illness means. My son and I have been through some very bad times and traveled through many dark places.

I’ve also learned that my son is not a burden that I must carry through life. His life is his own. Life’s lessons are best learned through natural consequences, both good and bad, resulting from our choices. And, I’ve learned that my son desperately needs me to walk alongside him offering love, support and guidance, as he finds his place in life. I love him dearly. He is doing well. I am very happy to be his mother.

This Mother’s Day if I could send every mother who has a child living with mental illness a Happy Mother’s Day card it would have this message taken from NAMI’s Family-to-Family education program.

Sometimes Love Means Let Go…

  • To let go does not mean to stop caring. It means I can’t do it for someone else.
  • To let go is not to cut myself off. It’s the realization I can’t control another.
  • To let go is to allow someone to learn from natural consequences.
  • To let go is to recognize when the outcome is not in my hands.
  • To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
  • To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
  • To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
  • To let go is not to expect miracles, but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.
  • To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.
  • To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future. To let go is to fear less and love more.

This Mother's Day, share your video or story and let others know what the day means to you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Experience So Far as a NAMI Family Support Group Facilitator

By Marjorie Antus, NAMI Prince William (Va.)

The remarkable thing about the NAMI Family Support Group is how relaxed it is. My sense of peace during the sessions probably stems from having attended only three sessions to date as a co-facilitator and, thus, from not having experienced the outbreak of raw emotion that likely occurs from time to time.

But I also credit Jeri Weeks, the lead facilitator, for the relaxed environment. She welcomes everyone, laughs a great deal, and encourages openness with forthright stories of her own life as mother of a man with schizophrenia.

In the bereavement support groups I once facilitated, in the NAMI Family Support Group, and also in the NAMI Family-to-Family class I currently attend, I have never failed to see a wonderful dynamic unfold. Many participants seem not to want to walk through the door on the evening of the first session; I among them. That’s obvious from the worried looks. By the third week, however, many come through the meeting room door smiling. It’s almost like clockwork, the camaraderie that takes hold over two weeks.

One of the most striking aspects of the support groups overall is, I think, humor. I expected and have seen tearfulness. I expected and have seen fear, frustration and sadness. What I didn’t expect was genuine laughter—a kind of delight—coming from people who are living with mystifying family relationships over which they sometimes have little control. That was a revelation to me. 

There are two reasons for my becoming a NAMI Family Support Group facilitator. The first is that my teenage daughter died by suicide in 1995. My need to talk about my daughter and her death was immense at the time, but almost no one was capable of sitting with me through the intensity. A support group would have been a safe place to be heard, so that is what I try to provide others as facilitator: a safe place to be heard.

The second reason is that I have a grown son with schizoaffective disorder who is living with my husband and me in a stable and good way. It is mostly concern for John Paul’s future that motivates me to help build the NAMI community.