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NAMI Wayne County helps mental health caregivers

Tri-County Independent - 1/13/2021

Jan. 9—LAKEVILLE — The first NAMI Family to Family class in Wayne County was a success, giving information and support for caregivers of someone with a mental health issue, facilitator JoAnna Van Tine said.

Another series of classes is being planned for February for anyone interested in registering. There is no charge, she said,

Switching to ZOOM

The Family to Family class is separate from the NAMI caregivers' support group, which has been meeting regularly at the Lakeville Fire House, as well as online, since June. Due to the rising Covid-19 numbers, and not to mention winter weather, the support group will be switching online, using the ZOOM videoconferencing site. The Family to Family class will also be held over ZOOM this time.

NAMI is the National Alliance for Mental Health, a nonprofit organization.

NAMI Wayne County is part of NAMI Scranton and Northeast PA.

Personal experience

"I started a mental health support group here for Wayne County because we desperately needed it.," she said. "After my very own son became diagnosed six years ago, there was nothing.There was no support, no education, no advocacy."

She said that after her third support group meeting up in Scranton, she knew she had to bring this back home to her own community. Van Tine facilitates, educates and advocates for NAMI.

Volunteering to teach a class, Van Tine was given training, and was to start the class in April. The Covid-19 lockdown postponed their plans till this fall.

She said they had eight people attend the class in person, and another nine joined in on the computer. There were eight weeks of classes, two and a half hours each time, and met weekly.

The classes, she said, cover all aspects of mental health. She said they serve to help the caregiver know how to deal with a family member who has mental illness.

No longer alone

Speaking from her own experience, she said the classes brings a lot of comfort to a family member. "They feel blame, isolated, with no where to go for help," she said. Taking the classes make them feel empowered, Van Tine stated. They find they are no alone, and better able to cope, conduct themselves, how to react and not to react.

The students also can bond with each other; new friendships can develop.

Feeling alone, she said, is a big issue. Mental health's stigma, which NAMI seeks to counteract, is a large obstacle for both the patient and caregiver.

The support group has seen participation grew since the Covid-19 pandemic, she observed. A lot more isolation has occurred, with people stuck at home, she noted, Depression and fears arise, and may affect both male and female.

Support group

The support group in Wayne County has been meeting on the first and third Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m.

About 12 to 15 people attend.

Meetings are strictly confidential. She said they sit in a circle and first time introductions are given.

Anyone needing to speak first because of some urgent crisis they are experiencing, may do so. No one has to share on a particular evening, and can say simply, "pass" when his or her turn comes, she said.

Van Tine said when she started attending the support group in Scranton, she was too emotional and needed time. Trust needed to be built up.

The group brings "amazing accountability," she noted. People don't have to be embarrassed any longer. They find they are far from alone and others are going through things as well. They can learn from each other and encourage one another. She says she calls it, "group wisdom."

The various human service agencies in Wayne and Pike Counties supply plenty of brochures and information for anyone in the group to pick up and contact.

How to register

Registration is needed for the Family to Family classes and the support group, although all services are free. Persons attending the support group sign in, with their name and contact information.

To register, or for more information about NAMI Wayne County, contact the NAMI office in Scranton, at 570-342-1047. Because the classes and support group meetings are switching to ZOOM, registration allows an invitation for the ZOOM meetings to be emailed, providing the log-in information.

Custom coffee

Fundraisers help support NAMI. What would have been their 20th annual Evening of Hope dinner in November at the University of Scranton, was canceled due to Covid.

Black and Brass Coffee Roasting Company in Honesdale has stepped up, and developed their own custom blend of coffee with a percentage of the proceeds to benefit NAMI.

More about NAMI

NAMI is a nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families and friends of people with severe mental illnesses. NAMI was founded in 1979 and has more than 1,000 local affiliates and 50 state organizations.

"The more we speak openly about mental illness, the more it encourages others to find the courage and the voice to tell their own stories," the website states.


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