Garner: Opinion

Editorial: A strong support system

Families of the mentally ill in and around the Garner and Cleveland communities have a place to turn.

And, it’s a mighty good place.

The Wake County chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness operates a program in places all around the country called Family to Family.

The multi-week course is a great place to learn about the illness your loved one suffers from and to learn how best you can support that family member, all while trying to carve out time for your own life and mental health. It’s also a wonderful place to meet other people struggling to juggle many of the same demands and challenges you face.

Family to Family has been around for a long time now and those who create the lessons have managed to create comprehensive program that really serves its students well.

The state of North Carolina, so well-known for its failures in helping people with mental illness,isn’t particularly helpful when it comes to family support. But NAMI has established a strong reputation for serving the needs of both the mentally ill and their families.

Contrary to the belief of some, mental illness is no disease of bad behavior. And not every mentally ill person is likely to go out and commit a violent crime. But none of that means helping your mentally ill loved one is an easy matter.

It’s not.

In fact, it can be a 24-7 responsibility with no end in sight. That’s a huge responsibility to shoulder and, frankly, it’s unreasonable to expect any one person to do it. But it’s important that your loved one gets the care he or she needs and its important to be on the lookout for behaviors that might indicate a change in mood. Then, it’s important to know how best to handle that situation in the way that works best for your loved one.

When all that’s over and your time is your own again for a while, it’s important to balance the care you provide for your family member with the care you provide for yourself.

There’s nothing we can think of that’s good about mental illness. But there is good help and there is a good support system in the form of NAMI’s Family to Family class. If you are a family member - mother father, brother, sister, son, daughter - of a person with mental illness, consider taking the class. It’s free. It’s good for your loved one in the long term. And it’s good for you.