Friday, November 5, 2010

National Family Caregivers Month

By Gariane Gunter, M.D.

November is National Family Caregivers Month and what a worthy group to stop and recognize. Those who are caregivers for family members or friends with mental illnesses need support and encouragement just as those caring for loved ones with other illnesses. There are many groups and resources available across the nation that are available to help. I would like to tell you about one of them.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a grassroots organization that was started in 1979. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with them in my area and have seen firsthand the difference they make in the lives of those suffering from mental illnesses as well as their families. One special program they offer for family members is called Family-to-Family. The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program is a free 12-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe brain disorders (mental illnesses). NAMI recognizes that family members of people with serious mental illnesses need information and support to cope with the considerable stresses they experience.

The Family to Family Education Program is a structured, peer-led, 12-week information and support self-help class for such individuals. Research shows reduced subjective burden and increased empowerment among graduates. Family-to-Family classes are offered in hundreds of communities across the country. You can find more information on this program as well as many other resources available in your area by visiting NAMI online at There you can find a support group, connect online in NAMI's discussion groups, contact your state or local NAMI and more. Caregivers please take the time to take care of you this month.

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