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Classes offer families a way to cope with mental illness

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Family to Family, a series of classes to help families with a loved one experiencing mental illness, has been offered twice a year for the past four years in Snohomish County.
And every time it's offered, its 25 available slots in the class are quickly snatched up, filled nearly as soon as they're announced.
So this year, the Snohomish County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is announcing its next 12-week course, which begins March 27, earlier than usual, to give a heads-up to anyone who's interested.
The course is being offered in Everett. Details on its location will be provided as class members register.
"The classes are an education and training for families who have a loved one living with a mental illness," said Jim Bloss, president of the local NAMI chapter. More than 200 people have taken the class so far.
The course assists family members and caregivers who are dealing with someone who has serious mental illness, such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
The goal is to help families cope with that illness and provide information on what resources are available to help both them and their loved one, Bloss said.
Bloss said he often hears from families who have just learned that the problems their son or daughter has been experiencing, sometimes for years, was due to mental illness.
"They have no idea where to go or what to do," he said. "Some don't have insurance. Some are poor. Some have money, but it doesn't mean anything if you don't know where to go. We try to help people find their way through the system."
The course is being offered because patients with mental illness eventually will get some kind of help, Bloss said. Family members need help, too, he said and "most of the time they're overlooked."
The class reviews what mental illness is, provides an overview on brain function and how medications can help heal mental illness, he said. It also provides tips on how to fight the stigma of mental illness and how to be an effective advocate for their loved one.
The course allows time for families to learn about and discuss these topics in-depth, Bloss said. "It's a super program, and it's free."

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.
Classes begin March 27
The next Family to Family class, a free 12-week series to help families who have loved ones with mental illness, begins March 27. Classes will be held in Everett from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
The class is sponsored by the Snohomish County Chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness.
Registration is required.
For more information, contact Sandy Mays at 425-339-3620 or sandy.mays@hotmail.com.
Story tags » Mental health

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