NAMI Basics Education Program Shows Positive Effects in Recent Study

Feb 7, 2022

Factors like race, income and stigma are well-documented barriers to treatment for mental health conditions, creating gaps that peer-led education and support programs are meant to help fill. Historically, family education programs led by peers — in this case, parents and other family caregivers of children and youth with a mental health condition — haven’t been rigorously evaluated for their effectiveness.

But a recent study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has put the power of evidence behind the NAMI Basics Education Program. NAMI Basics is for parents, guardians and other family who provide care for youth with mental health symptoms. The course consists of six classes and is designed to help participants gain a better understanding of mental health conditions and learn how to best support their child.

The independent study, funded by NAMI and conducted from January 2018 to September 2019, randomly assigned a diverse group of 111 caregivers of children and adolescents with mental health conditions to one of two groups. One group began NAMI Basics, while a second control group, which opted in with informed consent, was placed on an eight-week waitlist.

According to the study: “NAMI Basics participants reported significant increases in parent engagement and activation, as well as intentions to engage with mental health services. NAMI Basics participants also reported significant decreases in their child’s intrapersonal and interpersonal distress, compared with those in the waitlist group.”

One of the goals of NAMI Basics is to help inform and empower parents and other family caregivers to become advocates for their children across service systems. “Parent engagement and activation” refers to measures like increased knowledge and proactive communications with mental health care providers.

Results were obtained by comparing the attitudes of parents and family caregivers in baseline surveys against follow-up surveys after their participation in NAMI Basics. The study was the first to apply a randomized-control approach to NAMI Basics, which is considered the “gold standard” of scientific and academic research.

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