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Paying it Forward: Spreading Hope and Recovery

By Maura Bulger, NAMI Education Program Coordinator

Michelle Ready, a member of NAMI AOP (Anderson-Oconee-Pickens) in South Carolina, has been involved with several of NAMI’s Signature Education Programs over the last decade. I had the good fortune to speak with Michelle and her experiences with these programs as well as her development into a State Trainer for Family-to-Family and Parents and Teachers as Allies. She will be travelling out to St. Louis for a third time to attend the upcoming National Training of Trainers for Provider Education in April.

How did you find NAMI and subsequently the signature programs you are now involved with?

In 2002 a friend showed me a church bulletin with information about an upcoming NAMI class called Family-to-Family. I thought I was handling things at home just fine despite the fact that my husband who has depression and severe OCD, literally, hadn't left the house in seven years. I thought I knew everything there was to know, but at least I'd make some new friends. Wow! I was blown away by all I learned, and I did make 25 new friends. Two weeks after I graduated, I took the Family-to-Family teacher training. At the time this was the only program we had at our NAMI Affiliate. Subsequently, trainings came up for a Family Support Group Facilitator as well as Provider Education so I took advantage of those. I also became a state trainer for Family-to-Family. A little over a year ago I trained to present the Parents and Teachers as Allies in-service. The program was so successful locally that I decided to become a state trainer for that program so we could expand it throughout the state.

What did you hope to gain by attending these training sessions?

I always hope to leave the trainings with the knowledge of how to properly train others to teach the course as well as a better understanding of the course itself so I may answer any questions future teachers have as to why we teach the course the way we do. That will help ensure that the fidelity of the program is maintained.

Becoming a state trainer would enable our signature programs to expand across the state. The trainings are always outstanding. I always leave the trainings with a renewed sense of self-confidence that I’ll be able to train others to lead our programs.

How have F2F and Parents and Teachers as Allies impacted your life?

I thought I knew it all when it came to mental illness. After all, I had dealt with an ill husband for 25 years and had a BS in nursing. What I didn't understand was what it was like from my husband's point of view to live with a mental illness. The Family-to-Family class on empathy was the turning point for me. Now, I see how the entire family is impacted by the illness. Now that I really do understand, it has made our lives together much more joyous.

Throughout the years teaching Family-to-Family, my nineteenth course is starting in a week, I repeatedly heard from the families that, although the illness seemed to manifest itself in early adulthood, there still seemed to be something different about their child at a much earlier age. It seemed these children had struggled throughout their school years with teachers blaming the child for bad behavior and the parents for poor parenting. It seemed there had to be more to it. I'd always hoped there would be some kind of NAMI program to address this. Eureka! Parents and Teachers as Allies was born! In the last year and a half I've had the opportunity to become a presenter and state trainer. I can't help but be moved when I look out at the teachers and administration and see tears in their eyes as they understand that what they're seeing is not bad behavior or bad parenting, but the early signs of mental illness. Other teachers come to the realization that their own child is ill, even though they were hoping it was something else.

The rewards I get from the privilege of teaching these courses are immeasurable. Hearing the words, 'this course has saved my life', and 'this is the best in-service I've been to in 20 years' allows me to know I've found my calling in life.

What is the single most important thing you learned or took away from the training sessions in St. Louis?

There are always caring people from NAMI who want me to succeed! I’m given all the tools I need to have a successful training.

Why should individuals from other NAMI Affiliates across the country partake in training sessions such as this one?

Training more individuals will allow our NAMI programs to grow throughout the country. You will have all the support you need to succeed in your training.

The Education, Training and Peer Support Center will be hosting their next national Training of Trainers in St. Louis, Mo. at the end of this coming April. All eight signature programs will be hosted, including De Familia a Familia. For more information on this Training opportunity, please contact edutraininginfo@nami.org.


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