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NAMI: Help For Families of The Mentally Ill

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

There is nothing so lonely and heart wrenching for family members than to have a loved one who suffers from one of the chronic mental illnesses. These are what are known as the psychoses, among which are the Schizophrenias, Bipolar Illnesses and Bipolar illness with psychotic features, among others.

On the average, the psychoses manifest themselves between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age, although there is noting to preclude a psychotic break from occuriing much younger or older.

When this happens, families experience feelings of confusion, anger, guilt, shame and stigmatization. There is no one for them to talk to and ask for guidance in how to cope. Psychiatric resources tend to be directed at the patient and much less at the family. The sense of isolation is terrible.

Now, there is real hope for these families.

According to a study that was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH), and published in June 2011 issue of “Psychiatric Services,” a journal of the American Psychiatric Association, there is a free support program available to families through the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill(NAMI). The program is called “Family to Family,” or “FTF.”

FTF is a twelve week support and educational program to help families to both learn about and how to cope with their loved one afflicted by these illnesses. The program is available throughout the United States and in Canada.

FTF has been available since 1991 and has helped for than 250,000 families. Solid research, including follow up studies, clearly demonstrate the fact that those who participated experienced reduced stress, an increased sense of empowerment, improved problem solving skills in dealing with their loved one, especially when a crisis emerges.

Additonal studies done over many years show that the mentally ill persons who have loving and supportive families who remain involved in their lives, do much better than those who have been shunned or avoided by their families.

I can report, without any shred of doubt that, in my work in a psychiatric Day Hospital Program, many years ago, that those patients from families who attended multi family group meetings and who maintained close contact with their loved ones, fared much better than those who did not.

In other words, education, support and acquiring necessary skills, helps both families and patients. All of this helps prevent future decompensations, improve medication compliance, avoid the need for hospitalizations and increase the likelihood of living and functioning independently in the community.

You can learn more about NAMI and all of it’s programs by going to: http://www.nami.org

In addition, the direct link to NAMI’s FTF program is:

http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Family-to-Family&Template=/TaggedPage/TaggedPageDisplay.cfm&TPLID=4&ContentID=32973

I suggest and urge you to learn about all of NAMI’s programs for the mentally ill and their families. This a wonderful organization for both patients or clients and their families. I urge everyone who is interested in help and learning to get involved. Lots of information is available at their web site.

Your comments and questions are appreciated.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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