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Gina MacDonald: Helping the mentally ill

It's the Law

Posted: August 6, 2009 9:28 p.m.
Updated: August 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
The National Alliance for Mental Health  is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the United States, with self-help, support, and advocacy groups in every state.

Created in 1979, NAMI is completely dedicated to the elimination of all mental illness, as well as to the improvement of living standards for caregivers and persons affected by these diseases.

NAMI offers important advice and help for those with some of the most difficult of disorders, such as: schizophrenia; schizoaffective disorder; bipolar disorder; major depressive disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder; panic and other anxiety disorders; autism and pervasive developmental disorders; attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; and other severe, persistent mental illnesses affecting the brain.  NAMI has many programs to help families which include the following:

The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program is a free, 12-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe brain disorders (mental illnesses). The course is taught by trained family members. All instruction and course materials are free for class participants. The course discusses the clinical treatment of these illnesses and teaches the knowledge and skills that family members need in order to cope more effectively.

Peer-to-Peer is a unique, educational program for people with serious mental illness interested in establishing and maintaining their wellness and recovery. Peer-to-Peer consists of nine, two-hour courses taught by a team of three trained “mentors” who are personally experienced at successfully living with mental illness. The mentors are educated in weekend-long training sessions, then they are given teaching manuals, along with a paid stipend for each course they teach.

Course attendees are provided with a binder of hand-out materials, as well as useful and important resources: an advanced plan and directive for the future; a relapse prevention plan which helps to identify the feelings, thoughts, behavior or events that may be the early warning signs of an impending relapse; how to organize for an intervention; mental and emotional exercises that help keep an individual focused and thinking calmly and clearly; and coping skills for how to work with providers and the general public.

Hearts and mind
This new program concentrates on the health risks associated with mental illness. The purpose of the program is to raise awareness and provide information regarding diabetes, diet, exercise, smoking and substance abuse. Along with basic information about addictions, recovery, stigma and treatment, they also offer information on diabetes and sleep apnea, and tips for a healthy diet, including a shopping list template, recipes, and a food diary. Type ll Diabetes has become a particular concern, since research has begun to question the link between some psychiatric medications and the disease.   

To find a NAMI chapter closest to you, contact NAMI by mail or telephone at: NAMI, Colonial Place Three, 2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22201-3042, Member Services: (800) 950-NAMI (6264).

Ms. Macdonald’s practice is limited to Estate Planning, Probate & Elder Law.  She maintains her practice in the Santa Clarita Valley. She can be reached at (661) 251-1300.  Her column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.  “It’s The Law” appears Fridays and rotates between members of the Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.


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