One in five Americans is living with a mental illness, according to the National Association of Mental Illness.
The Utah chapter of the statewide nonprofit organization NAMI recognizes this and wants to help local residents understand mental illness. It also offers tools to help them deal with it and help their loved ones who may be struggling.
This will be done through an eight-week family-to-family virtual class beginning in October, said Julia Loughlin and Lana Youngberg, NAMI members, volunteers and educators.
Registration for the free course is available at namiut.org/our-programs/for-families-caregivers/nami-family-to-family.
“Anyone who has a family member, loved one, partner or friend in their life who is struggling with, or has been diagnosed with, a mental illness is encouraged to enroll,” said Loughlin, who teaches the class with Youngberg . “It’s very stressful to see someone you love fight and not knowing how to understand it, how to help them, and how to help yourself.”
There is no set start date for the course, but it will start based on the number of enrollments and will take place on Wednesdays, according to Youngberg.
The classes will cover the following topics:
- stigma and discrimination
- The impact of mental illness on family and friends
- Stages of Emotional Reactions
- Mental disorders
- mental health services
- get a diagnosis
- Mental Illness Overview
- Treatment options, including medications
- How the brain works
- Communication and problem solving skills
- Understanding collaboration, empathy and recovery
- Prepare for possible relapses or crises
- self-care and advancement
“Our tech assistant emails people information on a topic before each class so it doesn’t get too overwhelming,” Youngberg said. “The classes are about 2 1/2 hours and it seems to go by so quickly and people can look at the information after each class.”
While it might be tempting to only take courses that cover specific topics, Loughlin says there are benefits to taking any course and encourages registrants to tune in to all of them if they can.
“Even if every minute of it doesn’t directly relate to what your loved ones are struggling with, the journey with the other people in the class and what you hear and what you learn is so powerful,” she said. “The commitment is worth it.”
While course participants support each other, the course isn’t designed as a support group, Loughlin said.
“It’s a contact-driven course, and it’s an education-driven course,” she said. “For the rest of us, taking care of ourselves is crucial, and sometimes helping others is a challenge. So we give you coping mechanisms.”
The class is also a safe place for those who are struggling, Youngberg said.
“It’s based on confidentiality, so people can feel free to share their feelings,” she said. “People are realizing they are not alone. When faced with something you haven’t seen or know anything about, it’s scary. So it helps to be around other people who are going through the same thing.”
Loughlin said she and Youngberg saw the benefits the course had for participants.
“We’ve had people come out of class who feel like they have a new life,” she said. “We have people who have become advocates around the world and we have people who are starting their own NAMI affiliates.”