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Mental Illness and NAMI Family to Family Facilitation Training January 21, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, NAMI, Recovery.
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This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in some training. Orchestrated through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the training, called Family to Family Support Group facilitation training,  was designed to teach us how to facilitate a group of family members coming to a peer support group.

When I signed up for the training weeks ago, I was given the distinct impression that both mentally ill and non-mentally ill people would be participating in the training. It made sense at the time that both groups could effectively facilitate such a support group, although the perspective of each facilitator would necessarily be different.

I was surprised if not shocked, however, to discover when I arrived that of the 14 students, I was the only one who was mentally ill. There were fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons of mentally ill people, but not mentally ill people themselves. Except for me.

At that point, I became very concerned that I had overlooked some obvious point. Why was it that I was the only mentally ill person there? What did all of the other mentally ill people know that I didn’t? Why weren’t they here with me? And so I gave it serious thought to leaving.

Seriously considering abandoning my mission before I even began, I explained my concerns to my trainer, Kate. Together, we faced every one of my concerns head-on, leaving nothing left unsaid or unexplored.

I was worried about how well I would take listening to all of the pain and suffering the mentally ill person (like me) managed to inflict on family members (like them) who would be showing up for the support groups.

I was concerned that family members (like them) might be afraid to really share their feelings with the support group after they learned that mentally ill people (like me) might be present. We worked through each of these issues, and ultimately she told me that the decision of whether to stay or go was mine.

Making the decision easier in some respects and harder in others was the fact that my roommate for the weekend just happened to be a licensed mental health counselor who just happened to know my sister, also a licensed mental health counselor.  As anyone experiencing any sort of emotional trauma can tell you, life with a professional counselor is much, much better than life without one. It’s like having a heart attack when your neighbor is a heart surgeon. A good place to be ill, in other words.

Ultimately, after much thought, I decided to stay, with the caveat that if I became uncomfortable I was going to just get up and leave without any fanfare.  Giving me her business card, Kate asked me to call her right away if I suddenly bolted, just to make sure that I was in an emotional state that allowed me to drive myself home. I agreed to her request. Fortunately, it never came to that.  Surprising myself, I stayed for the entire training.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been there. But I’m glad that I was.

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Comments»

1. moodybpgirl - February 14, 2010

So far I have been very moved by how willing family members of persons with mental illness are to embrace and encourage me, especially people who have survived a loved one’s suicide, being that I once attempted it. I’ve never encountered any resentment; (although I’m sure it’s out there) mainly I just think there is so much confusion and misinformation, on both sides of mental illness, and we are all just looking for a way to make sense of it all.

2. Maria Perez - August 19, 2011

I live in Santa Maria, CA. I recently started woking for Transitions Mental Health Association and faclitate Family Support Groups. Do you offer any training for Family Support Group Facilitators.
Maria — jimpermaria@yahoo.com

Crazy Mermaid - August 21, 2011

Contact your local NAMI Chapter. They offer what you’re seeking.


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