Mental health clinicians undergo rigorous training in their fields
before treating patients with psychiatric disorders. Family
members, on the other hand, may find themselves suddenly thrust
into crisis situations with a loved one, struggling to understand
an illness they know little about — all while dealing with their
own powerful emotions.
The result, not surprisingly, is that families often do not know
how to respond effectively when a loved one develops a mental
illness. Anger, guilt, shame, and other negative emotions —
reinforced by society's continuing stigma about mental illness —
may hobble families' abilities to support patients. And while
clinicians would like to better involve and support family members,
doing so can become a daunting task in the real world of
conflicting demands of patient privacy, overbooked schedules, and
Recognizing the challenges, the National Alliance on Mental Illness
(NAMI) offers a free 12-week course, the Family-to-Family Education
Program. The curriculum includes medically reviewed and regularly
updated content about major depression, bipolar disorder,
schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and
substance use disorders.
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