The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont (NAMI Vermont) begins the new year by educating and offering support to those with family members that live with mental illness. The Family to Family class is 12 weeks long, occurring once weekly, free of charge, and beginning Wednesday, March 6, 6 p.m. in Williston.

This “life changing” program is offered yearly in several counties across Vermont. In addition to helping with the everyday challenges that might be expected to the friends and family of those living with mental illness, the classes provide up-to-date research surrounding mental illness.

“I have been dealing with my son’s mental illness for eight years with no real knowledge of what was going on,” said one past participant. “This course was very thorough and answered so many questions for me. It helped me to realize that others have the same issues and therefore understand.”

Many family members and friends want what is best for their loved ones living with a mental health condition, but often do not know where to start or how to help. There are over 300,000 family member graduates of the Family-to-Family program nationwide. This program aims to educate families about a variety of mental health diagnoses such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, and co-occurring mental health and addiction conditions.

The class offers up-to-date information about wellness and recovery, treatment, medications and their side-effects, mindfulness and whole health modalities, and other psychosocial options. Not only are participants taught how to empathize and understand the person living with mental illness, but they will also learn how to address their own needs, coping with worry, stress, and emotional overload.

Attendance in all 12 classes is expected. Family-to-Family is registered on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s list of evidence-based programs. Registration for the class is required and can be found at namivt.org or by calling 800-639-6480. This course is offered in part by a grant by the Vermont Department of Mental Health.

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