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Back to School: NAMI Education Classes Starting for Families of People with Mental Illness; Some Available at VA Facilities

September 8, 2010

Arlington, Va.-- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Family-to-Family Education Program offers new fall classes for caregivers of individuals living with mental illness. Classes are available at a number of locations in communities across the country, including some Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

Family-to-Family is a free, 12-week course led by trained family members who are experienced in caring for a loved one with serious mental illness. The course is available in English and Spanish. Each year, NAMI offers approximately 800 Family-to-Family classes in 49 states. Find a local class.

"Many people who come to a Family-to-Family class find it’s the first time that they connect with people who really understand their experiences," said Mike Fitzpatrick, NAMI executive director. "Participants learn from and support one another as they work to best help their loved ones."

Family-to-Family participants receive current information on serious mental illness, learn about proven treatments, develop problem-solving skills and communication techniques and explore local community services and supports.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia.

Psychiatric Services, the monthly journal of the American Psychiatric Association, recently reported that parents of adult children with mental illness who participate in education and support groups such as those offered by NAMI experience more positive outcomes and fewer burdens than those who do not. Results of a randomized trial by Lisa Dixon, M.D., Ph.D. and Alicia Lucksted, Ph.D.of the University of Maryland on the effectiveness of  NAMI's Family-to-Family education program also are expected in early 2011.

Stresses associated with caring for a loved one often affect the health and relationships of caregivers themselves. A Caregiving in the U.S. 2009 study echoed findings in NAMI reports on schizophrenia and depression. In NAMI’s depression survey, 50 percent of caregivers who responded had been diagnosed with depression themselves.

About NAMI

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1100 state and local affiliates that engage in research, education, support and advocacy.

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