Part of the class was devoted to hearing from long time mental health advocates who have been active in organizations like NAMI for years. They told us about the struggles they have gone through and the persistence is takes to make change happen. Advocacy by family members is so important because we live with the challenges of mental illness every day, and, often, the mentally ill cannot speak for themselves.
Advocacy not only creates changes in the system, but it also helps heal the families of those with mental illness. Giving back keeps your focus on positive things and prevents you from becoming mired in your own problems.
As we sampled the goodies that each of us brought to this last class, we discussed what the Family-to-Family experience had meant to each of us. One of the most often mentioned gifts was that of friendship and support. Before, many of us had felt isolated and alone with our loved one's problems. Now we each knew a dozen or more people in our own community who were struggling with the same issues. And, given the statistic that, over a lifetime, one in four people will be affected by mental illness, we all know now that we are not alone; there are many others out there just like us. We also know, thanks to this class, that there is help for our loved ones and hope for the future.
Most of our last Family-to-Family class was a celebration--of making it through 11 Monday nights, of the discoveries we'd made about our loved ones and ourselves, and of the bonding that had taken place between all of us during class and in our lingering discussions after.
We also celebrated the hope we had found in the model of recovery, and the strength of those who came before us to create NAMI and the Family-to-Family program.
For more information, Visit the Family-to-Family section of the NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania website.
*The Family-to-Family course is normally 12 weeks, but the co-teachers combined weeks 11 and 12 into one class.