Free classes help parents as they raise kids with mental illnesses

EVERETT — Parents often walk through the doors of the class weighed down by guilt, fear, grief and plain exhaustion.

Some don’t know where else to turn. Others aren’t ready to accept that their child may always be sick. Most don’t know how to take care of themselves through the ups and downs that come with being the parent of a mentally ill child.

That’s where Carolyn Hetherwick Goza comes in. Twice a year, Goza, a retired college professor, teaches a free course to parents and guardians caring for children and adolescents with mental health issues, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The six-week workshop, called BASICS, is sponsored by the Snohomish County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Participants leave the course with a four-inch-thick binder full of resources and references. Maybe more important, they are reassured that they are not alone, Goza said.

“We teach them how to handle a crisis and relapses and how to communicate. All along the way we’re talking about how they can care for themselves,” Goza said.

The conversations aren’t always easy, she said. Parents grieve for losing that “ideal” child and must accept what that means to move forward.

“Then they can start building a life,” Goza said.

Recently a woman wrote Goza a letter, thanking her for helping her family emerge from the “dark place” created by caring for a child with mental illness. Her daughter is on the road to recovery, headed to college. The woman has been able get a part-time job outside of the home.

The course was “exactly what my family needed when we were in a dark place, feeling isolated and hopeless. You provided us with a safe place to connect with other families who were walking the walk,” the woman wrote.

The next free BASICS course begins April 10. The Thursday classes meet from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 2936 Rockefeller Ave., Everett.

To register, call Goza at 425-347-5365 or email namicontact@gmail.com.

A support group for parents and caregivers of adolescents living with mental illness meets at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the church.

People needing immediate help for mental health issues can call the Snohomish County Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Line at 425-258-4357.

People in crisis and looking for access to mental health services can call 888-693-7200.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com.

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