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Free Linn County course helps families facing mental health issues

Gazette - 12/20/2018

Dec. 20--She knew he was struggling with depression and anxiety, but Val Snapp didn't know what she could do to help her close relative.

"It's just hard," said Snapp, of Hiawatha. "I just wanted more information. Just -- what's out there to help us where we're at, and to go forward?"

She found some relief when she took a course for family members of adults with mental health issues. Snapp said the free course, taught by the Linn County branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness nonprofit, helped her better understand her loved one's struggles and gave her strategies to help.

"It's a safe place to talk about your situation," she said. "You know they know what you're going through."

Another round of the nonprofit's free "family-to-family" 12-week course is scheduled to begin in January.

Kurt Rogahn, who teaches the classes, said the curriculum includes information about depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and other diagnoses.

"I think there's a need out there," said Rogahn, who was a student in a family-to-family class before becoming an instructor. "... You learn to separate the individual from the illness, and this helps in understanding the person and in communicating with them."

About 1 in 5 American adults -- 44.7 million people -- lives with a mental health issue, according to 2016 data from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness nonprofit has operated in Linn County for at least 25 years, Rogahn said, though it has been years since it has been able to sustain a paid staff member.

The local branch of the nonprofit is hoping to establish an office in Cedar Rapids next year.

Rogahn said he hopes the courses, and the volunteer work done by the local branch, can support the people supporting those with mental health issues.

"What we learned," he recalled of the first family-to-family class he took with his wife, "is that we're not alone."

If you go

To enroll in the 12-week courses, call 319-221-1184 or email nami-lc@hotmail.com by Jan. 1.

--When: Mondays, 6-8:30 p.m., starting Jan. 7

--Where: St. Mark's United Methodist Church, 4700 Johnson Ave. NW, Cedar Rapids

--When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, starting Jan. 22

--Where: Marion Christian Church, 1050 McGowan Blvd., Marion

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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(c)2018 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

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